Men In Black take to the soccer field for their latest game

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mib_group_photo_p_7 ONEIDA — The playing field at Holy Cross Academy (HCA) was the site of the latest  Men In Black (MIB) sports event.
MIB, made up of seminarians and priests, took on a younger team of Holy Cross Academy students — a
nd they prevailed in a real nail-biter.
The two teams were tied 4-4 and MIB won the shoot out, 4-3.
Father Cleophas Tuka, originally from Kenya, has played soccer most of his 43 years. He scored the first goal of the game when he hit a diving head ball past the HCA goalkeeper.
“I just saw an opportunity and took it,” Father Tuka said.
When he served as a priest in Kenya, his diocese had its own team made up of priests, Father Tuka explained, and they played against priests from neighboring dioceses.
“We played against other priests and it was a reunion for us. There were a number of priests we had gone to school with and we would socialize after the game,” Father Tuka said.
When the Office of Vocation Promotion first came up with the idea of a “Men In Black” team in 2000, the games were typically played on the basketball court. The team traveled to diocesan high schools and played against their teams. This time, Father Joe O’Connor, director of the office, decided they would play a soccer game on the heels of the World Cup games.
“We actually stole the idea from Baltimore,” Father O’Connor said. “We wanted to show the young people that the priesthood is a healthy option. Sometimes their idea of a priest is limited to seeing him at the altar at Mass. When they can see priests doing things they do, like playing sports, it gives them a different perspective.”
One of the reasons for choosing to play at HCA has a direct relationship to the team — the newest seminarian to study for the Diocese of Syracuse, Dan Collins, just graduated from HCA. He will be going to St. John Neumann Seminary College in Yonkers in August.
“HCA has a really good Catholic atmosphere,” Collins said. “You get a good education because the class size is small and you get a lot of one-on-one attention. And you build lasting friendships.”
Collins is one of 10 children and he said his parents are very happy that he chose to pursue a vocation to the priesthood.
“I’ve wanted to be a priest as long as I can remember,” he said. “First of all I think that is what God is calling me to and I’ll be able to help people at their highest and lowest parts of their lives.”
Soccer wasn’t the only sport Collins excelled at in high school. He also played basketball and co-ed softball. Besides sports, Collins also enjoyed the theater department. He played Alfred P. Doolittle in “My Fair Lady” at HCA in 2009.
Teri Maciag is principal at HCA, which offers a Catholic education for grades 7-12. The school currently has 77 students enrolled after beginning with four students 14 years ago. It is not part of the diocesan school system but operates with the permission of the bishop.
“We are registered with the New York State Board of Regents and we do everything with a Catholic perspective,” Maciag said.
She said Collins was valedictorian of his senior class.
“He’s so bright and he’s got so much going for him. He loves God and it shows,” Maciag said.
The soccer game was a good introduction to life among the priests of the diocese.
“I’m really looking forward to studying philosophy and theology,” Collins said, “and the camaraderie with the other guys who are called to be priests.”
Maybe some will even be called to play soccer, too.

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