Wednesday, February 1, 2023
Florida Catholic staff - Florida Catholic
MIAMI | The rosters are set, the captains chosen. The only question that remains: Can a team of archdiocesan priests beat a team of archdiocesan seminarians in a soccer match?
That question will be answered Friday night, Feb. 3, 2023, at 7:30 p.m. on the pitch at St. Thomas University as priests and seminarians face off for the first Archbishop’s Cup – inspired by the recent FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Given that it’s “winter” in South Florida, perhaps the heat here will match that of Qatar in December (around 75 degrees) rather than July (around 107 degrees).
The seminarians’ advantage: They’re obviously younger than the priests, whose ages range from 29 to 55.
The priests’ advantage: They have been practicing together Wednesday evenings on the field behind St. Stephen Church in Miramar, at least since mid-January.
The seminarians do practice regularly since they play each other at a semiannual Inter-Seminary Day. St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami hosted the most recent one in November.
But it’s hard to practice as a team when the players are scattered throughout South Florida: St. John Vianney’s in Miami, St. Vincent de Paul’s in Boynton Beach, and Redemptoris Mater’s in Hialeah.
Another priests’ advantage: Several team members played professionally in their home countries or were on the verge of doing so before heeding the call to priesthood. Some of them have continued to play regularly, with each other, or in pick-up games with parishioners and school parents in their churches.
“We knew each other and that we like futbol,” said Father Antonio Tupiza, who works in the archdiocese’s Metropolitan Tribunal and helps on weekends at St. Rose of Lima in Miami Shores.
Father Tupiza is the co-captain of the priests’ team. And he told the Florida Catholic they’re taking the game very seriously.
“None of us wants to be embarrassed,” Father Tupiza said. “The ‘padres’ are very happy and very motivated. It’s more than a fun game. We want to make a good impression.”
Both teams have international representation, with players who hail from as far away as Africa and Argentina to Mexico and Brazil, and even one who grew up in Hialeah – the seminary’s vice rector, Father Bryan Garcia.
“We saw a lot of talent,” said Father Tupiza, a native of Ecuador who played in the Vatican’s Clericus Cup – a soccer tournament among seminarians there – when he studied in Rome.
He joked that the priests are preparing the list of “penances” they’ll impose for whatever fouls the seminarians commit against them.
And yes, the whole thing was Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s idea. He’ll give the invocation before the start of the match and present the trophy to the winning team. The event is being organized by the Vocations Office and while admission is free, donations to the Seminary Burse Fund will be more than welcome.
“That’s why I’m organizing this. Because my heart is divided,” said Father Matthew Gomez, a priest who, as director of vocations, works with seminarians.
The seminarians will be clad in yellow, the priests in blue, to match the colors of the archdiocesan crest. The game will consist of 40-minute halves with a tie decided immediately by penalty kicks. Referees will be members of St. Thomas University's soccer team and campus ministry.
Since it's Catholic Schools Week, honorary coaches from local high schools will help organize the teams on each sideline. Cheerleaders from local middle schools will lead the crowd in supporting their favorites. Father Manny Alvarez, pastor of Little Flower Church in Coral Gables, and Ana Rodriguez-Soto, editor of the Florida Catholic, will provide the play-by-play and commentary.
Aside from the friendliness of the competition, Father Tupiza said it’s a great way for parishioners to see their priests doing something other than celebrating Mass.
Father Gomez agreed. “I’m hoping at least one guy enters seminary because of this.”
Doors will open at 6 p.m. at the university, located at 16401 N.W. 37th Avenue in Miami Gardens. A few food trucks will be on hand as well.
This article has been amended since it was published. The team rosters have been added. The age range of the priests also has been lowered. It now starts at 29 instead of 35. And the referees are students from campus ministry as well as the soccer team.
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