Soaked Souls and Goals game scores win for vocations

Players and spectators were thoroughly drenched, and yet everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The annual Souls and Goals — soaked souls and goals, that is — soccer game between Clergy & Co. and the Kenrick-Glennon Seminary Lions took place in a driving rain Nov. 5 before a standing-room-only crowd at St. Dominic High School. In the third game of the cup series, the priest-led team defeated the seminarians 2-0. It was the Clergy & Co.'s first win after the seminarians won the previous matches by scores of 2-0 and 6-1.

The first goal of the Nov. 5 game was scored by Father Michael Grosch and the second was on a penalty kick by Father Anthony Gerber, coming after he'd been knocked down while driving toward the goal.

The rain had stopped for the beginning of the first half, but soon the rain came in buckets. The large crowd remained, however, many under cover, in rain gear or using umbrellas. Marc Rosner, wearing a dripping, red St. Louis Cardinals shirt, was at least tied for the wettest spectator. He speculated that an umbrella wouldn't help him at that pint.

He and his wife, Michelle, were rooting for the priests because of Father Timothy Foy, who formerly was associate pastor at their parish, Immaculate Conception in Dardenne Prairie. The parish's vocations committee sponsors the game to raise interest in the priesthood and religious life.

Father Foy, associate pastor of Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, later said that the rain certainly made the game memorable and perhaps helped his team. The game was ended early, with about 25 minutes left in the second half, after lightning was spotted.

"It was heartwarming that so many people stuck around," said Father Foy, who helped originate the game. "The seminary team puts up a good fight. It was a blast."

Father Gerber was modest in speaking of his goal, "I was just glad I didn't do my traditional Gerber ball over the net." The seminarians, who play in a CYC league, are in better shape and "would have made it interesting" if the game had continued, he said.

The concept of the game is a good one, he said, showing the priests having fun playing sports. "You also see the fraternity of the priests and with the Catholic community," he noted. "The Catholic community is joyful. We pray hard and we also play hard."

Soccer icon Tony Glavin of the Tony Glavin Soccer Club and the St. Louis Lions S.C. coached the priests at practices, while his assistant, Bill Faherty, took over for game-day duties.

Father John Nickolai, associate pastor of St. Ferdinand Parish in Florissant, was a spectator visiting with the fans. He noted that "I win either way — my alma mater or my brother priests." He said it meant a lot to him as a seminarian when priests visited Kenrick-Glennon, having dinner with the students or just giving encouragement.

He didn't participate in the game, but he said Father Foy "managed to rope me in" by asking him to make the head of the priests' mascot, St. Peter. Father Ryan Weber, associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Dardenne Prairie, wore the mascot get-up but ditched it as soon as the rain came in order to preserve it. He was impressed with the clergy team that "came out swinging hard."

Father Gerber had a group of about a dozen supporters from the Catholic student union at Lindenwood University who carried signs with his name and image. One of them, Josh Deters, predicted the priest would score six or seven goals, noting that he's an expert foosball player. Since the game ended early, it's possible, though not likely, Father Gerber would have made the prediction come true.

Mary Beth Wittry of St. Gabriel Parish was huddled under an umbrella as she rooted for the priests. She knows a number of them from teaching and directing music at the seminary from 2004-13. The event meets its goal of promoting vocations, she said, by showing the priests and seminarians being competitive, showing sportsmanship and having fun

"They're not at all boring," said Sophie Healy, a sophomore at Liberty High School, while her friend, Shelly Wolf, a sophomore at St. Dominic was impressed with the priest and seminarians' energy.

Life Teen Mission member Emily Pellarin of Blessed Teresa Parish in Ferguson pointed out how the priests and seminarians mingled with the crowd, providing "a cool opportunity to just hang out."

The organizers went all-out, selling T-shirts and concessions, handing out a program with bios of the players and organizing a halftime with a human hamster-ball race. 

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