WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Archbishop Joseph MacNeil and Fr. Mike Mireau concelebrated Mass on St. Francis Xavier School's namesake day.
St. Francis Xavier Day, celebrated at its namesake high school, is a day for faith, fun and a feast.
"We've been celebrating our patron saint's day since our school first opened, about 52 years ago now," said Eugenia Chisotti, who heads the religious education department at the west-end high school.
"Every year we celebrate the importance of what our saint stood for, along with his missionary work and being an evangelist. Now we've tied it in with the basketball tournament, and it's a whole new way to spread our Catholic identity with the public."
Past years have included such activities as bingo, cribbage, ice skating, improv drama, and Battle of the Bands. Celebrated Dec. 6 this year, Amazing Race was newly added as another enjoyable component.
While the annual Mike Dea basketball tournament garners a lot of attention, the morning Mass, highlighting their patron saint, and enjoying a turkey feast are also key aspects to St. FX Day. The students raise funds to support the Sign of Hope and volunteer at the Mustard Seed.
The Amazing Race involved about 200 students travelling to various locations across the city. They had to retrieve an item from the bottom of a swimming pool, collect signatures from students at a junior high school and complete various tasks.
"It really is a community-building thing because there is tons of student input into this. They are helping out all over, from working at the games, being scorekeepers, to being hosts for the teams," said Dan Donnelly, the school principal.
Donnelly said the three-day basketball tournament started 16 years ago with about eight teams. Now it is one of the largest high school basketball tournaments in Western Canada, with 28 teams.
In his homily at the Friday morning Mass, Father Mike Mireau congratulated the basketball players from the various schools. In terms of the tournament, he said that from a worldly point of view, a mark of success is to win, to be champions.
Mireau made the connection between basketball and cancer. He said that when someone dies from cancer, a common phrase in newspaper obituaries is, "He lost his battle with cancer." Mireau said this phrase is inaccurate for people who are otherwise victorious through Christ.
As reminded by St. Paul, he said everyone's mission is to run the race, fight the good fight and to keep the faith - but not necessarily to win, at least not by the world's typical standards.
Or, paraphrasing Mother Teresa, he said we're not called to be successful; we're called to be faithful.
In terms of the Catholic faith, he said the mark of success is to turn earth into heaven. This comes through creating bonds that give others knowledge about God. He advised the students to rejoice in the moments when they can connect with someone, and bring a piece of heaven to earth.
He cited examples in his life where he connected with others and created tight bonds. When he became the district chaplain, he wanted to understand the teens better so he watched three seasons of Jersey Shore, so he could learn the language. It was a sacrifice, but better communication with the youth led to stronger connections.
He explained that he saw a truck lose its load on the roadway. Boards and boxes spilled out onto the street. Other motorists saw the driver struggling to reload the items. Many motorists stopped and assisted the man.
Again, Mireau said that bond, that helpfulness among strangers, was the same kind of work that St. Francis Xavier did: turning earth into heaven.
Camaraderie on the basketball court leads to a similar experience, he said.
"That is the victory God wants you to experience. We're not talking about winning. I'm talking about the team and the connection, the community, the communion. When you experience that, you're experiencing a little bit of heaven. Why? Because God is there."