Week of December 11, 2000
Faith and basketball
High school celebrates feast day with Mass, tournament
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Students and staff at St. Francis Xavier High School gathered to celebrate the feast day of their patron saint and to watch a little basketball.
It's a tradition that has been part of the school for the past two years and it's one event that keeps spirits at the 1,100-student west end school alive.
With the music blaring, students cheered and clapped for members of the 12 basketball teams running into the gym on the first day of the tournament, Nov. 30, as retired teacher Mike Dea looked on.
The next morning, the music was silent as the same clapping and cheering students sat quietly in the pews at Annunciation Church celebrating St. Francis Xavier's feast day, Dec. 3, with retired Archbishop Joseph MacNeil.
In an opening ceremony speech to students, Dea compared modern day hockey player Mark Messier with St. Francis Xavier, saying the work of the latter is often overlooked.
"St. Francis had energy and virtue," Dea said. "I hope he can be as much of a role model to you as anyone else out there."
With cheers, skits and musical numbers dedicated to the long-time teacher, students laughed and recalled favourite moments with Dea, who retired last school year.
St. Francis and Dea, although born in different eras, have one thing in common, the respect of the students who attend the high school. So it isn't an oddity that the celebration of the school's patron saint and the basketball tournament coincide.
"It's pretty overwhelming," said Dea, who gets hugs and handshakes from former students and school staff. "I always enjoy coming back here."
Dea made his mark at the school. Not only is an annual tournament named after him, but so is the gymnasium. The retired teacher was active at St. Francis for four decades as teacher, head of the religion department and football coach.
The tournament attracts schools in the public and Catholic systems, but organizers try to keep it relatively small, about a dozen teams. This year's tournament winners are the girls team from Scona High School and the boys team from Archbishop O'Leary High School.