December 6, 2016 // Local

Seminarians plan to dominate third Cupertino Classic

Promising to bring the heat to Cupertino this year are seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The annual priests-vs.-seminarians basketball game happens in Fort Wayne Dec. 27.

By Ben Landrigan

The time approaches once again for the highly anticipated basketball game pitting priests against the seminarians of the Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend. This year’s Cupertino Classic will take place in the gymnasium of Bishop Luers High School. The festivities commence at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 27.

Since its inception two years ago, Cupertino has gained popularity and attention as an annual Christmastime event. In the first game held at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Fort Wayne, the priests dominated an unprepared and seemingly unskilled seminarian team in front of a crowd of an estimated 300 fans. However, last year’s game at Bishop Dwenger High School, Fort Wayne, saw a far more even competition — though the priests remained victorious — and an attendance of more than 1,800.

While numbers may not continue to grow at an exponential rate, many look for Bishop Luers to be facing a capacity crowd this year. Seminarian co-organizer Mark Hellinger is full of confidence on this point.

“We’re going to max out the gym. I expect at least 1,900 people.”

For a basketball game that is really much more than a sporting event, this news is exciting. Ultimately, the Classic is all about fraternity and community. The vision for the game is of a fun and entertaining gathering to build Catholic fellowship. The main priest behind the Cupertino Classic, Father Andrew Curry, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in North Manchester, explained.

“I think the main purpose of the Cupertino Classic is to simply grow Christian friendship. The whole idea just came out of a group of us getting together for breakfast one day and just talking about how we should get together for a game of basketball, just have some fun, and then it kind of just grew into a bigger idea of inviting more people into that kind of spirit of Christian friendship. So, that’s the first thing, just getting together and enjoying good things in the spirit of the Lord.”

Father Curry also shared another aspect behind the game: The promotion of vocations.

“A second level would be, we could in a sense promote vocations to the priesthood. Being a priest doesn’t mean you give up fun and good things, but that you give your life to bring Christ to others. You still have these good, human things as part of your life.”

The Cupertino offers the Catholic faithful in general, and young men in particular, an opportunity to see their priests and those studying to be priests in a new environment. A large part of the game’s draw comes from seeing the guys getting competitive and playing basketball, a far different atmosphere from the normal encounters at the parish.

While the Cupertino Classic is designed as a center for Christian community and fraternity, the competitive aspects of a basketball game have certainly not been lost. The priests mercilessly cruised to a 2-0 record, while the seminarians continue striving for their first victory. Father Curry expects this year’s game to be much of the same.

“I think we (the priests) are going to destroy (the seminarians). I’ll be in better shape this year than I’ll have ever been. I’ve already hit the gym early and been playing a lot of sports. I’ve been practicing,” he said. “I know that the Coonans (Father Terrence Coonan, pastor of Little Flower parish, South Bend, and Father Matthew Coonan, vicar of St. Vincent parish, Elkhart) and Runyon (Father Jacob Runyon, pastor of St. Jude parish, Fort Wayne) always come to win, so I’m feeling good. I would expect a very lopsided score.”

Hellinger sees a much different situation developing. Perhaps inspired by the seminarians’ increased level of play last year, he calls this year “the seminarians’ best shot,” and he remains “a firm believer in Team Seminarian.”

The actual outcome will have to be decided on the court. The priests will want to control the pace of play, run an efficient offense and use their combined experience. For the seminarians, a fast pace and limited turnovers will be essential to staying in the game. Come Dec. 27, all eyes will be on the court at Bishop Luers to see who claims the win at the third annual Cupertino Classic.

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