Leaven photo by Marc Anderson
Father John Schmeidler, OFM Cap., pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence, attempts a three-point shot during the Runnin’ Revs basketball game April 22 at Hayden High School in Topeka. The game featured grade school and high school students playing basketball against archdiocesan priests and seminarians to raise money to help seminarians with expenses. The game raised $1,253.
Hayden senior surprises crowd by switching sides in Revs’ game
by Marc and Julie Anderson
TOPEKA — The Miege crowds in Roeland Park are accustomed to the biased referees and general hijinks that accompany the benefit games played by the Runnin’ Revs to promote vocations here in the archdiocese.
But on April 22, it was the Hayden game that saw one of the Serra All-Stars — made up of Catholic grade and high school boys — switch sides at halftime to play for the Revs.
Andrew Gaffney, a senior at Hayden High School, wasn’t just helping the exhibition team of priests and seminarians boost its score.
As Father Mitchell Zimmerman, archdiocesan director of seminarians, announced right before play resumed, Gaffney had just become the archdiocese’s newest seminarian.
Gaffney was the stunned recipient of a spontaneous standing ovation.
“I was not expecting that at all,” said Gaffney of the ovation. “I think it was because the majority of the people at the game were from Hayden, and Hayden has not had an alumnus become a priest in 22 years. The last two were Father Jerry Volz and Father Tim Haberkorn. I think people were happy.”
Prior to the game, Gaffney knew he was going to switch sides, but he did not know Father Zimmerman was going to make the announcement. In fact, Gaffney had not even had his initial meeting with the archbishop yet. Father Zimmerman, however, knew the archbishop had said he was inclined to accept Gaffney as a seminarian; the formal acceptance was scheduled for two nights later.
“It was kind of a getting- to-know-you meeting,” said Gaffney of that later meeting, during which the archbishop asked Gaffney about his family, his parish life and what priests had inspired him, among other things. Next fall, Gaffney will be attending Conception Seminary in Conception, Mo., as a first-year pre-theology student.
Halftime also featured another highlight: an opportunity for those in attendance to witness Bob Fisher in action. Fisher, a resident of Centralia and member of Annunciation Parish in Frankfort, is the holder of not one, not two, but 14 world records, all based on his free-throw speed. Fisher, also a motivational speaker and known throughout the country for beating Charles Barkley in a free-throw competition on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” demonstrated his skills and made 29 free throws in 30 seconds.
Prior to the game, Father Zimmerman informed the crowd of the game’s three main rules, to the audience’s amusement.
First, if a young man on the Serra All-Stars side made the first basket, it’s a sure sign he would later go into the seminary, he said. Second, if a player fouled a priest, it was “a mortal sin by definition” and in order to return to the game, the young man would need to go to confession to one of the priests on the sideline or in the crowd. And finally, if a fan rooted against the priests, it was a mortal sin by definition, again requiring immediate confession.
The game started out largely in favor of the Runnin’ Revs, and the first foul was called against the Serra All-Stars. Father Zimmerman was at the line to shoot two free throws, but then benched himself in favor of a fan in the audience — Abbot Barnabas Senecal, OSB, who officially retired from active ministry this spring.
Abbot Barnabas missed both shots, but to thunderous applause.
At the end of the first half, the Revs were up 34-21. In the second half, though, the All-Stars slowly chipped away at the lead, making several three-point shots in the fourth quarter and eventually coming back and beating the Revs 62-57.
The game raised $1,253 in donations, all of which will help the archdiocesan seminarians with their expenses.