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Basketball star has no trouble converting

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Adelaide Lightning MVP and Opals squad member Nicole Seekamp might have her sights set on representing her country in the Commonwealth Games but that hasn’t stopped her from staying focused on a higher calling.

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Over the past four months she has been putting her heart and soul into understanding the Catholic faith in preparation for her baptism, confirmation and first communion at Our Lady of Victories Church in Glenelg parish on February 25.

Nicole, 25, began her formal journey to becoming a Catholic in October last year when she contacted the parish about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. The sole participant in the program at Glenelg, she was mentored by local coordinator Paula Novak, in conjunction with Deacon Pat Edwards, both of whom were happy to fit the study sessions around Nicole’s busy basketball schedule.

Born and raised in the Riverland town of Renmark with her two older brothers, Nicole moved to the city to play basketball for Sturt when she was 14. She lived with her aunty and uncle while attending Brighton High School and then resided at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.

With little religious upbringing – “I remember going to the Salvation Army after school to sing songs and I used to do Sunday school when I was little” – Nicole had her first significant encounter with religion after she won a basketball scholarship to the University of South Dakota in the United States.

“Religion in America, especially the Mid-West, was much more popular than here,” Nicole said.

“I had a teammate who, whenever I stayed with her, always went to church with her family so I just started going with them.

“She was Catholic and was from a small town of about 600 people max…so I thought that was kind of cool.”

Nicole’s boyfriend, Cody (pictured on front page), also was Catholic and after being together for two years, firstly in his home state of South Dakota and now in Adelaide, they began talking about their future and discussing his faith.

But while Cody may have “led” her to consider conversion, she stressed that it was her own decision.

“I wanted to do it for me; I’m not just doing it for him (Cody), but because I believe in it.”

Paula said Nicole was “most emphatic” about this when she began the course. She praised Nicole’s commitment and her ability to juggle the program with her hectic training and playing schedule.

“We met through November and December sometimes twice a week to fit it all in,” Paula said.

“She was amazing – she’d always done the reading beforehand – and sometimes she’s come straight from practice or the airport if she’d been playing interstate.”

Cody accompanied Nicole to some sessions and she said it was a “good refresher” for him and provided a different perspective but she also enjoyed her one-on-one discussions.

“I still feel like there’s a lot to learn but it’s been very interesting,” Nicole said.

“I found it all rather intriguing, some of it has hit home in that it’s what I believed in before I knew it related to Jesus…I always believed there was like a higher power and that everything happens for a reason, I just kind of found out about Jesus.”

Her parents have been supportive and attended Mass for her Rite of Acceptance late last year but she said her brothers “just don’t understand it” and she’s not surprised because “that’s what I was like before”.

Cody’s grandmother and aunty, both of whom are Catholic, were in Australia before Christmas and also came to her Rite of Acceptance which Paula described as “just lovely”.

“The people at 10.30 Mass have really embraced Nicole and they are very interested in her journey,” she added.

“I think the fact that she is young – to see her at Mass with Cody – has really touched people.”

As for praying before the game, Nicole said “no” but quickly added, “I’m working on it, I’m still new at this”.

Nicole, who is 178cm and a point guard/shooting guard, attended the Opals squad training camp in Varese, Italy, last month. She is contracted to play for Lightning again in 2018 after being named Most Valuable Player in her debut season.

 

FAITH PLAY: Nicole Seekamp has been juggling her professional basketball career and preparation for becoming a Catholic through Glenelg parish.

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