Angels and Althletes

Oct. 23-29, 2003
Angels and Althletes
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
The annual Guardian Angel update and luncheon mixes sports and spirit

The dresses and pant suits that are usually evident at the annual Guardian Angel Society’s update and luncheon were overshadowed by men’s suits this year. The occasion was most likely the luncheon’s speaker — SU basketball star and sophomore Gerry McNamara. Syracuse University won the NCAA basketball championship this past season and McNamara’s ability was a jewel in the team’s crown. Having him and Assistant Coach Mike Hopkins as speakers at this year’s event was a jewel in Father Joseph Champlin’s crown. Father Champlin established the Guardian Angel Society six years ago to provide a solid financial base for Cathedral School. He is rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The society has raised over $1 million dollars thus far and shows no signs of waning. The funds provide scholarships for the school’s students as well as other scholarships that allow them to continue their Catholic education after they leave Cathedral School. This year’s luncheon was held at the Sheraton Syracuse University Hotel and Conference Center on Oct. 15.

Students served as greeters and helpers at the luncheon. Mychelique Edwards, a kindergartner, and Daisia Noboa, a third grader, greeted guests as they walked into the reception area. “Nice to meet you, sirs,” Mychelique said to a couple of female guests as they arrived. The students served as ambassadors in their own right. Father Champlin welcomed guests to the luncheon explaining that 75 percent of the school’s 100 students live below the poverty level. The society helps the students currently enrolled with tuition assistance and also supports 30 graduates who now attend the three Catholic junior/senior high schools in Syracuse.

Sister Donna Smith, DC, principal of Cathedral School, addressed the lunch crowd telling them how the school’s reading program has enhanced the students’ state test scores. She also explained the new character education program at Cathedral. “We strive to help the total child and help children reach their full potential,” Sister Donna said. “And, if you’re ever close by, visit the school, …the school with the heart in the heart of downtown Syracuse.” After the updates, the guests of honor took the floor. Mike Hopkins, assistant basketball coach and mentor for Gerry McNamara, introduced his star player. Hopkins recruited McNamara when he was a high school player in Scranton, Pa. The affection Hopkins has for McNamara and his family was obvious as he showed real emotion when he described how he met the McNamaras during the recruitment process. “This is a very unselfish kid,” Hopkins said of McNamara. “He’s a great player and a great person.” Hopkins said that McNamara’s hometown of Scranton was much like Syracuse and McNamara agreed. “Scranton is a great place with unique people just like Syracuse. I feel at home,” McNamara said. He credited his parents, who were present at the luncheon, for his success. “I have two parents that I love to death. It’s a great tribute to me to be part of their life. Without them I wouldn’t be standing here today,” McNamara said. A short clip of the season’s basketball highlights featuring some of McNamara’s signature moves was shown before he spoke. Hearing his story of dedication, sportsmanship and hard work was no doubt fine testimony for the students who were listening. One Cathedral School student asked the six-foot tall basketball star when his growth spurt began. Another asked if he could dunk. In between the questions from young people, many basketball-savvy questions were asked as Hopkins carried the microphone from speaker to speaker while McNamara answered the questions from the podium. At one point, Hopkins’ colorful language was noted when a fan suggested he visit Father Champlin for confession after the luncheon.

When the event was over, Father Champlin kindly replied, “Mike isn’t a Catholic so he doesn’t have to go to confession.”

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