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The legacy of Father Troy

For the past 40 years, a basketball tournament started by a beloved priest
has been at the centre of life at St. Joseph High School

The Saints Legacy Wall, which features prominent alumni, sits outside the Father Michael Troy Gym at St. Joseph High School. (Theodora MacLeod)

The Saints Legacy Wall, which features prominent alumni, sits outside the Father Michael Troy Gym at St. Joseph High School. (Theodora MacLeod)


Tournament chairman Jay Meraw with Troy in the 1990s. (Frank Sdao)


Mother Margaret Mary played Archbishop Jordan, Feb. 4. (Theodora MacLeod)


This bronze bust of Troy is in the main atrium at St. Joseph. It was commissioned by the Knights of Columbus following his death. (Theodora MacLeod)


St. Joseph vs. Gymnasium Philippinum boys opened the 39th annual basketball tournament Feb. 2, 2023. (Theodora MacLeod)


Troy with John Short, (centre, guest speaker at the Troy Classic breakfast) and Richard Isabelle in 1997. (Frank Sdao)


Troy leads Mass on the final day of the 2008 tournament. (Frank Sdao)


Troy, escorted by Edmonton police, declares the 2009 basketball tournament open. (Frank Sdao)


A wall of memories from the 1984 tournament. (Frank Sdao)

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By Theodora MacLeod

AT THE CENTRE of St. Joseph High School’s main gym sits a larger-than-life photo of Father Michael Troy, the man for whom both the gym and the annual basketball tournament is named.

The downtown Edmonton high school has hosted 39 tournaments in the past 40 years – all in honour of the Dublin-born priest who spent more than half his life in Canada.

Those who knew Troy say his presence can be felt in every moment of the three-day event held each February on the Richard Isabelle Court of the gym that bears his name. A pillar of the Catholic community, he lived until 92 and spent 41 years at St. Joe’s.

On the 40th year of the event, which took place at the beginning of the month, it was unlikely many of this year’s crop of athletes knew him. However, to this day, dedicated alumni keep his legacy alive, coming together to remember a man who believed athletics was the key to strengthening one’s relationship to God.

Like any good European, Troy was a soccer player. But, in 1983, basketball was the most logical choice for the tournament  says Jay Meraw, who was part of the team that organized the first event. Meraw recently retired after 35 years at St. Joe’s, but spent approximately two decades as a chairperson and organizer of the tournament. He still attends when he can.

‘Endless energy, that was
Father Troy’

“I’m so happy to see it today as vibrant as it was 40 years ago,” Meraw says. “To him, you could get so close to God through sport … that’s what he believed … sportsmanship and goodwill.

“Endless energy, that was Father Troy.”

Meraw and his wife had an especially close relationship with Troy. He presided over their wedding and they once stayed with the Troy family in Malahide, Ireland – at Troy’s insistence. The day they landed in Dublin, Meraw recalls, the priest, then in his 80s, spontaneously called a friend to take them all fishing, despite the couple’s exhaustion from travelling.

Then he talked them into a hike to a nearby castle.

In contrast to Meraw, who has spent a lifetime involved in the festivities, Nathin Bye, head of the culinary team and assistant coach to the St. Joseph Saints boys basketball team, has only been a part of the school community for five years.

“It’s a sacred thing to be a part of something that has been around that long,” he says. “When something has been around that long, it has a purpose.”

Bye’s co-assistant coach, Janna Isabelle, has been a part of the legacy her entire life – the court is named for her father, Richard.

“It’s always about alumni coming back to celebrate Father Troy,” she says. “That’s the best part of this tournament for me … Even when I wasn’t working here, I came here every year. So, every year, it was like a high school reunion … It just shows the type of people that come out of this school.”

This year the school hosted 16 teams including the home teams. Traditionally the teams invited are from Catholic schools, but exceptions are made, one of which is Gymnasiums Philippinum and Elisabethschule, two protestant secondary schools from Marburg, Germany. Philippinum has its own legacy, dating back to the 16th century, and Elisabethschule was founded in the 1870s. The two teams aim to attend the tournament every second year. They travel 7,225 kilometres to compete.

‘We’re happy to have
this connection here’

Jenny Unger, who is head coach of the German boys team and an assistant with the girls team, has been making the journey since 2004, initially as a player. When asked what kept her and her teams coming back, she replies: “It’s the atmosphere here at the school … We love the people and we like the building. Everyone is so kind and we’re happy to have this connection here.”

Though the players may not have their own recollections of Father Michael Troy, anyone who knew him has a story to tell.

“Back in ‘97-’99 we used to have our opening mass at St. Vincent de Paul in the parking lot [directly beside the school] … We would have Mass that Father Troy led. He’d run a super-fast mass, saying basketball is more important than listening to him speak.”

St. Joe’s Boys’ team head coach André Richard recalls. “Sadly the current players only know the name … With the Troy Tournament they can see the connection.”

As a former member of the Saints girls’ team, Isabelle says she can remember how involved Troy was in the school’s athletics program.

“Every time we would go to a tournament out of town, he would come on the bus, and although he was lovely and warm, he was also very competitive because he was a coach. So he’d give us all a speech, bless our bus, and we were on our way.”

Father Michael Troy lived his life in the spirit of community, love, and competition, all elements the current organizers and alumni of St. Joseph Catholic High School have carried on in the subsequent tournaments following his death in 2010.

Nathin Bye never met Troy. But he and everyone in attendance can look up to the tournament banner that hangs over the Richard Isabelle Court, and see the priest’s face smiling down on them.

“Our ultimate purpose, beyond curriculum, is producing good people,” Bye says. “And having alumni come back and help and volunteer and support, just proves we are creating and embracing good people. That is the Father Michael Troy legacy.

“Looking at him … I feel so at peace.”

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