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Quo Vadis wins basketball game in double overtime

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High school men discerning religious life defeated the Arlington seminarians, 79-78, in double overtime during the annual Quo Vadis basketball game, held at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries Jan 7.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, Father Christopher T. Vaccaro and Paul Klein, a parishioner of St. Veronica Church in Chantilly, served as referees. Father J.D. Jaffe, director of vocations, opened the game with prayer and a bit of advice for the players. “A word of caution: don’t argue with the refs,” he joked. 

Father Vaccaro, chaplain at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, started playing CYO basketball in middle school and has been a high school referee for years. “I love getting out there and interacting with people you never would meet normally,” he said before the game. 

Though most of the other referees know he’s a priest, on the court he’s just another man in a black-and-white striped shirt. 

Father Vaccaro met Bishop Burbidge several years ago when the Bishop was seminary rector. The two talked about their love of sports, and Bishop Burbidge mentioned he used to be a baseball  umpire. 

To prepare Bishop Burbidge for the basketball game, Father Vaccaro bought him an official whistle. “He’ll need to adjust to the court a bit, but if you have the disposition of a referee — if he has that in his blood — we’ll be fine,” said Father Vaccaro.

The seminarians had the lead in the beginning of the game, ending the half with a 33-26 advantage. Though there was spirited play on both sides, the players stayed friendly, often exchanging high-fives. Fellow seminarians cheered loudly for their team. Half the gym’s bleachers were packed with families and religious spectators, including Dominicans Sisters from John Paul the Great. 

Quo Vadis players picked up energy during the second half, and the game ended with a near buzzer-beater tie. In double overtime, Quo Vadis won by 1 point. “That's the most intense game we’ve had,” said John Paul Heisler, who played both in high school and now as a seminarian. 

During halftime, seminarian Sean Koehr gave a reflection on sports and the faith, recounting his time playing lacrosse at Seton School in Manassas and crew at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Both taught him the importance of obedience to the coach. 

“The coach can see the battlefield, he can see what needs to be done,” said Koehr. “Christ is the good coach. He created you and all of your gifts. Sometime He calls you to use your gifts in ways that you don't think are the best. When you're in prayer, ask God how He wants you to invest your gifts to build up the church.”

During this game, Dan VanderWoude, athletic director at Seton, coached Quo Vadis, while his brother Chris, athletic director at John Paul the Great, coached the seminarians. Over the course of their sports careers at local Catholic schools, the brothers have coached several of the young men before. 

Dan led two practices over the holidays for the Quo Vadis boys who volunteered for the team. “(The game is) a great opportunity for fellowship and encouraging vocations, and a celebration of Catholic family life,” he said.

Andrew D’Andrea and his friend Elijah Jones, parishioners of St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, have played multiple years in the Quo Vadis game. “I think it's great just to have high school boys playing against seminarians and learning (about) life from seminarians,” said D’Andrea. Before the game, they prayed a rosary with the seminarians in the school chapel. After the game, all attendees headed to the cafeteria for pizza. 

Heisler credits Quo Vadis activities with helping him see the priesthood as an option for his own vocation. He also enjoys playing with the high schoolers, including his brother.  “We know a lot of those guys pretty well,” said Heisler.

Fellow seminarian Nicholas Blank added, “I served with John Paul VanderWoude at Holy Trinity this morning. And then I guarded him all game.” 

Many of the players were excited by Bishop Burbidge’s participation. “He clearly has an affection for fostering vocations in the diocese, and he spends time nurturing them just by his presence,” said Blank. 

Buy photos from the game at catholicherald.smugmug.com.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018