Diocesan News

‘Winners’! The ‘Collars vs. Scholars’ Game Celebrates Catholic Education in the Diocese

Joan McMaster, Deputy Superintendent and Chief Administrative Officer for the Office of the Superintendent of Schools, awarded medals to each MVP student to honor their academic achievements.

CONEY ISLAND — Catholic Schools Night at Maimonides Park in Coney Island on Friday, June 21, featured a friendly softball game between principals and priests but the real MVPs were the students.

Dozens of valedictorians and salutatorians of the Class of 2024 were given MVP awards on the field — a moment that served as a highlight of Catholic Schools Night, an annual celebration of faith-based education in the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Catholic Schools Night also includes the presentation of the Tablet Jr. Awards honoring the achievements of Catholic academies and school student journalists whose work was published in Tablet Jr., a special section running eight times a year in The Tablet.

The Scholars, a team made up of school principals and administrators, handily beat the Collars, a squad of priests and seminarians, by a score of 11-1. 

But both the winning and losing teams displayed good sportsmanship and even offered each other high-fives after the 3-inning contest.

“The whole idea is to have fun,” said Father Elvin Torres, the parochial vicar for Corpus Christi Church and St. Sebastian Church in Woodside. “We tried our best, but what can you do?” added Father Torres, who got a hit.

Deacon Kevin McCormack, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn, pointed out that the Scholars have won the game the last two years, which coincidentally is how long he has been superintendent. 

“I want to point out that we have crushed them each of my years here. I think it’s obvious that I am the deciding factor here!” he joked.

Turning serious, he added, “It’s a great night and just a great time to celebrate Catholic education.”

Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Paul Sanchez, who served as a pinch hitter for the Collars, joked that he didn’t know why he was asked to perform that role.


He was gracious toward the winners, not only because they were victorious on the field but because of the important role they play in educating students. “We’re grateful to our principals,” he said.

Michael Phillips, who just completed his first year as principal of St. Ephrem Catholic Academy in Dyker Heights, was thrilled to take part in the Collars vs. Scholars match-up.

“It’s been an amazing experience being able to come together with the pastors and the clergy members. It’s one of those things that’s just a celebration. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We’re just having fun,” he said, adding that the game served as a good example to students on the importance of teamwork and putting forth your best effort.

After the game, it was time for the kids to shine.

The student medals were presented to valedictorians and salutatorians by Auxiliary Bishop Sanchez, Deacon McCormack, and Joan McMaster, deputy superintendent. 

Kamsiyo Chukwu, salutatorian of Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Cambria Heights, was proud to receive her medal and said she wants it to be a springboard for her future. 

“This isn’t the only award I’m going to win,” she said confidently. Kamsiyo, who is headed to Archbishop Molloy High School in the fall, recalled that in her speech at graduation, she urged her fellow eighth graders to not take the easy road in life and to challenge themselves.

Currents News anchor Christine Persichette presented the Tablet Jr. awards.

The crowd attending the game received a special treat — a bobblehead of Father James Kuroly, rector and president of Cathedral Preparatory School and Seminary.

Catholic Schools Night is presented by DeSales Media Group, the ministry that produces The Tablet and Currents News. Catholic Telemedia Network, a subsidiary of DeSales, sponsored the student awards ceremony.