Holy (team) Spirit high at Parramatta Marist

22/04/2015

Catholic Outlook April 2015: Fr John Paul Escarlan
Fr John Paul is the newest priest to be ordained for the Diocese of Parramatta.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook April 2015

By Elizabeth Scully

Father John Paul Escarlan could be mistaken for a student if it wasn’t for his Chicago Bulls’ singlet.

The atmosphere is hectic as students file into the stands for an epic rematch between the Parramatta Marist basketball A-Team and Fr John Paul’s team, comprised mostly of seminarians from Holy Spirit Seminary at Harris Park.

As it is during Lent, the game will be a fundraiser with proceeds jointly shared between Marist Missions and Caritas Australia’s Project Compassion Appeal. The unmistakable perfume of Dencorub fills the air as the teams gather on the court.

Fr John Paul is the newest member of the presbyterate in the Diocese of Parramatta and was ordained by Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP in September 2013. Fr John is Assistant Priest at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Parramatta, Diocesan Master of Ceremonies and Deaf Community Coordinator.

Parramatta Marist Sports Master Tim Woodbine tells me that his team has been looking forward to the game. “It’s good for the students to see religious figures in a different light: as fellow men who like sport just as much as they do,” he said.

The priests and seminarians have donned blue-and-gold sports uniforms borrowed from the Holy Spirit Seminary soccer team, Spiritus Sanctus.

Though the contest is fierce, both teams gather together in a prayerful huddle prior to the start of play. The sign of the cross gives way to applause as the crowd goes wild.

A fast-paced game ensues. Parramatta Marist are in good form, coming off the end of a strong season where they finished 5th of 12 teams.

The priests and seminarians have a secret weapon in Redfield College Chaplain Fr Felix Navarro. Despite boasting a good couple of decades on the rest of the players (including his teammates), Fr Felix is dynamite on the court.

Though the priests and seminarians put up a good fight and pulled out some impressive tactics, it’s tough to compete with the home team who made few mistakes.

The final score is 25-30 in favour of Parramatta Marist, an honourable loss for the priests and seminarians.

At the conclusion of the match, there are good-natured handshakes all around. A junior student acting as water boy offers a basket of plastic drink bottles to the exhausted priests and seminarians and then an aside to the crowd: “It’s holy water now!”      

Yet the score may not be settled. Parramatta Marist High’s Principal, Br Patrick Howlett FMS, confirmed that there’s an appetite to continue the series. It was, as Br Pat commented, “A marvellous game!”

For more information about Holy Spirit Seminary in the Diocese of Parramatta click here 

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