Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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xav riflery webThe winning Xavier Varsity Riflery Team poses on the shooting range last season. In front row from left, are E.J. Hohmann, Con Marrinan, Mike Labella, Anthony Dortenzio, Chris Sokol, Riley Lyke and Kyle Gardiner (co-captain). In back row, from left, Coach Aaron King, Dylan Lorance (co-captain), Mark Wojcicki, Mike Acampora, Tim Hoang, Jacob Lagace, Mike Lavallee and Coach Charlie Costa. (Photo submitted)

MIDDLETOWN – When school lets out for the summer, many high school students head for the beach, take on summer jobs or take a vacation. However, several young men from Xavier High School have spent their time at a local shooting range, traveling out of state to shooter clinics and then passing on what they’ve learned about marksmanship to their fellow teammates.

It’s this level of dedication and teamwork that enabled the Xavier Varsity Riflery Team to win the state championship last February.

The Falcons had a 5-1 record last season, beating traditional rival Suffield Academy for the first time in six years with a record-high score of 967 (out of 1,000) against Suffield’s score of 958.

“It was the motivation of several of our shooters. They put in a tremendous amount of extra effort and just decided to buckle down,” Aaron King, rifle coach, said of the Xavier Riflery Team. “They really changed the tenor of the whole team.”

Team member Con Marrinan, age 17 and a junior, last season, agreed that the leadership of co-captains Dylan Lorence and Kyle Gardiner was the key to the team’s success. “We got co-captains who enjoyed riflery outside of school, as well, and coached the team a lot to improve our scores.”

Xavier is the only Catholic school represented among 12 riflery teams that compete in the Connecticut high school league. It’s also one of the largest rifle teams in the state, Coach King said, with 40 members total, including varsity and junior varsity, when competing teams have fewer than 20 members.

According to Coach King, who has coached the team for nine years, the best shooting competitors have great concentration, a good mastery of their body and some amount of strength and stability to keep themselves still. They also must learn to shoot in four different positions: prone, sitting cross-legged with elbows on their knees, kneeling and standing.

“You’re never going to be able to get the barrel steady – it moves. You have to pull the trigger right when it’s aligned with the target,” he explained. “Some kids have a natural aptitude, but some can practice enough to get good.”

The team routinely practices twice a week through the winter season at Blue Trail Range in Wallingford.

“Some other schools have their own ranges and they practice five days a week, so that puts us at a disadvantage,” Coach King said. “We’ve invested in some technology recently: the Scatt System. It’s a German laser gun and is what the Olympic shooters use.” This allows the Xavier team members to get in some extra practice.

Many of the team members participate in other sports, too, but said they find rifle shooting to be a unique sport.

“I enjoy the challenge,” Mr. Marrinan said. “It’s a lot of fun because it’s not just a sport against another person. So even when there’s no competition, it’s still a mental game and you’re on the line with yourself, against the clock, and against your best scores.”

Mr. Marrinan also competes with pistols and qualified for the Junior Olympics in pistol shooting this year. He attended the pistol Nationals in April.

Mike Acampora, 16, a sophomore last season, said, “I like pushing myself to the limit and trying to get that perfect score.” He also qualified for the Junior Olympics in his freshman and sophomore years and hopes to compete in the adult Olympics someday.

Mr. Lorence, a recent graduate and former co-captain, said he spent a lot of hours practicing with his father at the ranges in Wallingford and in Newington.

“I enjoy what it’s been teaching me about self-discipline and making sure that I push myself to be the best that I can be. It helps you with everything, even school work,” the 17-year-old Lorence said, noting that target shooting is 90 percent mental concentration.

He said he was not surprised that Xavier won the state championship “but watching the scores come in, it was kind of nerve wracking. Their last shooter didn’t have it, but our last shooter [co-captain Kyle Gardiner] did.”

Mr. Lorence was recruited by the Coast Guard Academy in New London to attend college there and to shoot on its rifle team.

This past season, Jacob Lagace, 17 and a junior, tied for the highest individual score in team history with a score of 199 out of 200.

Mr. Lagace said he was drawn to the sport because “I liked the idea of the discipline and self-control of being a military marksman. I would like to attend West Point. That was my dream as a little kid and it’s still my dream today.”

Now that a new year is about to start, what does the coach think the team’s chances are for winning again? “We’re only losing one of our top shooters. The other four top shooters will be here next year,” he said, “and they’ll be better.”

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.