Priest steps up to the crease

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Fr James McCarthy is not just good with the bat. A cricket tragic, he’s also a skilled opening bowler. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Fr James McCarthy is not just good with the bat. A cricket tragic, he’s also a skilled opening bowler. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The Parish Priest of St Aloysius Gonzaga, Cronulla, Fr James McCarthy has been inspiring members of his local community to take up cricket this summer, after scoring an impressive century in a Sydney competition.

Fr James has also won praise from Prime Minister and local MP, Scott Morrison.

39 year old Fr James, who has been playing cricket since the age of 8, scored a remarkable 109 not out for the Papal Bulls Catholic Cricket Club in their recent match against Gypsies Cricket Club at Five Dock Park.

Fr James said it was a decades-long dream to score a century for the team he first joined as soon as he left high school.

“Some things come quickly and some things take years to work at. So better late than never!”, he joked.

“Congratulations to Father James on an outstanding effort in scoring a century!”

Prime Minister Morrison said it’s an impressive achievement.

“One of the best things about cricket is that Australians from all walks of life love getting involved. It’s a great community sport. Congratulations to Father James on an outstanding effort in scoring a century!”

While the Papal Bulls ended up falling eight runs short of victory, Fr James helped turn around the team’s performance after a poor start.

Cricket is a long-standing family tradition for Fr James.

His grandfather Kerry Slattery played grade cricket for St George in the 1930s and 1940s, while his father, John McCarthy QC has been involved in cricket administration for well over a decade with the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust.

Fr James with fellow Cronulla parishioners and cricketers Michael Sakowicz and Tim Gibson. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Fr James with fellow Cronulla parishioners and cricketers Michael Sakowicz and Tim Gibson. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

While studying for the priesthood in Rome from 2005-2008, Fr James developed the idea of a Vatican Cricket Team and his father helped get all the necessary approvals in place in his role then as Australia’s Ambassador to the Vatican.

A talented all-rounder, Fr James is also a skilled opening bowler, who has often taken five wickets in an innings. He is accustomed to troubling batsmen with his fast left arm bowling, once clocked at just under 140 k/h for his fastest deliveries.

Papal Bulls team-mate and St Aloysius parishioner, Tim Gibson, has played with Fr James for many years and greatly admires his talents on the cricket field. He said there is a great sense of camaraderie across the team where everyone is made to feel welcome, whatever their skill level.

“Some of us are very talented in the team and others not so. But we try to be really inclusive where we take everybody onboard”, he added.

Fellow St Aloysius Cronulla parishioner, Michael Sakowicz was invited by Fr James to join the Papal Bulls team earlier this year and said he has greatly enjoyed being part of the team.

“While the Papal Bulls ended up falling eight runs short of victory, Fr James helped turn around the team’s performance after a poor start.”

“I’m sure Fr James’ efforts will help inspire more students in our local Catholic schools like St Aloysius at Cronulla and St Francis De Sales at Woolooware to play cricket as well”, he said.

Fr James said he is looking forward to playing more regularly for the Papal Bulls alongside Cronulla deacon, Michael Kasiita and he has set himself a new target as a bowler.

“I’ve never taken a hat-trick, so that’s now my next personal goal”, he joked.

Formed in 1999, the Papal Bulls field a team in the Inner West Harbour and Church Cricket NSW Joint Competition. Fr James’ team plays most of its matches at Clemton Park Kingsgrove and Cooke Park, Belfield.

A second Papal Bulls team, based at St Peter’s parish in Surry Hills, competes in the Moore Park & South East District Cricket Association and Church Cricket NSW Joint Competition.

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