By STEPHEN O’KANE, Staff Writer | Published December 6, 2007
This fall, men from around the archdiocese showcased their best sneakers and quickest moves as they took part in the inaugural season of the Catholic Men’s Basketball League at Our Lady of Mercy High School, Fairburn.
Founded by Jim Winkler of St. Gabriel Church, Fayetteville, the Catholic Men’s Basketball League is a pilot program that has come to fruition after two years of work.
“I got the idea of a men’s league from OLM coach Tony Caruso and athletic director Bill Schmidt, who were playing on a St. Gabriel team a couple years ago in a league at a local church,” commented Winkler by e-mail. “After seeing the caliber of play they said, ‘Why don’t we have our own league of Catholic men and play at OLM?’ I jumped on the idea immediately.”
Winkler wanted to begin right away. However, OLM had an interim principal at the time and he decided to wait until a permanent principal was in place. Once Danny Dorsal took over, Winkler took the idea to him. According to Winkler, Dorsal played in a similar league in South Carolina and gave permission for Winkler to begin the process. The Catholic Men’s Basketball League found a home at OLM.
“The archdiocese has given us a wonderful, state-of-the-art facility at Our Lady of Mercy to host the games,” Winkler said.
More than 90 men from Atlanta-area parishes participated this year in what is expected by many to jumpstart a tradition of an annual basketball season for Catholic men. With seven teams representing 12 parishes, including Our Lady of Lourdes, Atlanta, St. Theresa, Douglasville, St. Mary Magdalene, Newnan, St. Matthew, Tyrone, Holy Trinity, Peachtree City, and St. Gabriel, Fayetteville, the first season has been an encouraging start.
Games are played Sundays at 2 p.m., 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. in the OLM gym, where friends and family watch fathers, husbands and sons partake of a fun and unique fellowship opportunity.
The mission of the league is brought to the forefront of all the players’ minds and hearts at the beginning of each game with a prayer and an announcement: “Good afternoon basketball fans and welcome to Our Lady of Mercy High School and the inaugural season of the Catholic Men’s Basketball League. The purpose of our league is to promote fellowship among the parishes both on and off the field.”
It is not just the lay members of the archdiocese who are getting involved either. Father Victor Galier, pastor of St. Matthew Church, encourages his team on the court as a player as well as in his parish. Listed as his spouse in the league’s program is “Church.”
The detailed programs are another interesting aspect of the competitive yet casual basketball league. Printed after every game, the four-page program updates players and fans on team and league statistics, including individual and team high-scorers and free throw and 3-point leaders, as well as league standings and important announcements. Diocesan Publications provides the programs free of charge.
The Catholic Men’s Basketball League has turned out to serve a twofold purpose. According to Winkler, who volunteers part-time at Our Lady of Mercy High School, he felt so strongly about the mission of the school that he wanted to give something back. He believes that hosting the games at OLM will not only further fellowship among parishes in the archdiocese, but also give the seven-year-old school the exposure it deserves.
The inaugural season comes to a close Dec. 16. Archbishop-emeritus John F. Donoghue was asked to present the championship cup and most valuable player award following the final game, but due to scheduling conflicts will not be able to attend. Father Jimmy Adams, chaplain of the league and of Our Lady of Mercy High School, will present the award in his stead.
Winkler hopes the program will grow to be a strong tradition for adult men in the archdiocese. And the successful first season is a promising sign for years to come.
“I can see, in a few years’ time, the gym at standing-room only,” he said.
For more information on the Catholic Men’s Basketball League, contact Jim Winkler at firstname.lastname@example.org.