.- Polish clergymen rocketed down ski slopes to pay tribute to their beloved Pope and countryman, and to compete for a trophy in the John Paul II Cup.
The 14th annual Alpine Skiing Championship for Polish Priests and Seminarians took place in Wisla, Poland on Feb. 12.
One of two priests that organize the event annually, 37-year old Fr. Gregory Szwarc, told CNA that the event was revived in 1998 by a group of Franciscan priests who did so in memory of a similar tournament from the past.
They have a “good pattern” to follow, said Fr. Szwarc. “Our Pope John Paul II went skiing so that is why we gave the competition his name.”
The tournament divides priests into four age groups and also pits seminarians against each other in a separate category. Events are based around an 800 meter slalom race.
The clergy begin the competition with the traditional opening run down the mountain in their black cassocks. They shed the official Church clothing in favor of full ski suits before the real competition.
Members of the priests' immediate families are also eligible to participate in a “doubles” race, with the fastest pair down the mountain taking the gold.
This year, 30 priests and 7 seminarians from all over Poland participated in the event, a sizable increase from the 26 who competed a year ago. The downhill race also drew 17 entrants in the family category this year.
Those who took gold in the priest categories were: Fr. Chris Sontag of Our Lady of the Rosary in Lędziny; Fr. Henry Urbas, SDB, from Krakow; Fr. Damian Copek from the parish of St. Mary in Katowice; and Fr. Simon Kos from the parish church of Sts. Peter and Paul in Katowice-Dęba.
Winners receive a special trophy, a John Paul II cup.