DETROIT — It wasn’t the NBA or the CHSL.

Not even the  CYO.

It was F-U-N.

That was the brand of basketball last Friday evening at Sacred Heart Seminary. The occasion? The annual priests vs. seminarians match.

No one knew the history of this series except for the last two occasions. “We won last year,” Deacon Matt Wagner, coach of the seminary team, said, “and the priests won in 2017. Tonight we break the tie.”

Referee Dave Vojinov provided another perspective. 

“This is the 22nd year I’ve been officiating this game,” he said. “Someone passed the baton on to me, and I’m looking to pass it on to someone else.”

From his experience, he added: “The priests get the benefit of the doubt on all the calls. The seminarians don’t like to lose.”

Leo the Lion, the trusty mascot for Sacred Heart's basketball team, riles up the fans on the sidelines. 

They didn’t lose this one, racing out to a 33-15 halftime lead en route to a 58-42 final.

The priests, coached by seminary theology professor Fr. John McDermott, SJ, didn’t get on the scoreboard until about six minutes into the game when Fr. Stephen Pullis hit a 3-pointer from the right wing.

The 3-point shot was a potent offensive weapon for the clergy. They had six in all. Fr. Pullis had another one midway through the second half.

Fr. John Jaddou brought along a vocal contingent of adults and youths from St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy, who gave him a boisterous cheer for his pair of 3-pointers.

The priests came out after halftime with a bit of pep in their step, outscoring the seminarians 27-25 in the second half of the game.

“That’s what we discussed,” said Fr. Vince Richardson, who used his 6-foot-4 height to dominate the boards and score a game-high 13 points.

The seminary had the advantage with their youth. “But we also played four or five games during the season,” Deacon Wagner said, “and played in a tournament in Chicago.”

That happened in late January, the Fr. Pat O’Malley Invitational Basketball Tournament. Sacred Heart was one of 16 seminaries from 13 states that participated.

”We lost our first game by a point in overtime,” Deacon Wagner said. “We won a couple games by 20-30 points in the consolation round.”

Priests and seminarians pose for a group photo after the annual basketball contest at Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

He’s looking forward to his ordination on June 28 for the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in Minnesota.

“Ooh, those Minnesota winters,” I said.

He laughed. “Five below here is like a spring break for us.”

Fr. James Houbeck, associate pastor at Holy Family Parish in Novi, served as a kind of master of ceremonies for the game, introducing the players, wisecracking during the game, and handing out prizes to youngsters during the intermission.

“I came back especially for this,” Fr. Houbeck said. “I announced this game for seven years when I was a student here.”

Fun for all.

The priests' team roster included:

  • Fr. Joseph Campbell (St. Patrick Parish in Brighton)
  • Fr. Athanasius Fornwalt, FHS (Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit)
  • Fr. John Jaddou (St. Joseph Chaldean Catholic Church in Troy)
  • Fr. Timothy Laboe (Dean of Studies, Sacred Heart Major Seminary) 
  • Msgr. Todd Lajiness (Rector, Sacred Heart Major Seminary)
  • Fr. Dominic Macioce (St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park)
  • Fr. Adam Maher (Our Lady of Consolata Church in Gagetown)
  • Fr. John Machiorlatti (St. John the Evangelist Parish in Davison) 
  • Fr. Stephen Pullis (Director, Archdiocese of Detroit Department of Evangelization, Catechesis and Schools) 
  • Fr. Vincent Richardson (St. Gerard Parish in Lansing)
  • Fr. Kevin Roelant (National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica, Royal Oak) 
  • Fr. Pieter vanRooyen (Assistant Professor of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary)
  • Coach: Fr. John McDermott, SJ (Professor of Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary)

The seminarians' roster included:

  • Corey Bilodeau (Lansing)
  • James Bird (Detroit)
  • Zachary Flint (Detroit)
  • Colin Frick (Detroit)
  • Greg Ingle (Lansing)
  • Anthony Kersting (Madison, Wis.)
  • Seamus Kuttner (Lansing) 
  • Riley O’Shea (Lansing) 
  • Bro. Joseph Spears (Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity) 
  • Austin Windland (Steubenville, Ohio) 
  • Chris Zettel (Companions of the Cross)
  • Coach: Deacon Matt Wagner (Winona-Rochester, Minn.)

Contact Don Horkey at