Courtesy Roman Catholic Challenge
Members of a team from St. Birgitta Parish confer over a question at the Roman Catholic Challenge: Henry Webster, William Greninger, Chrissy Wickelman and Catherine Greninger.

Courtesy Roman Catholic Challenge

Members of a team from St. Birgitta Parish confer over a question at the Roman Catholic Challenge: Henry Webster, William Greninger, Chrissy Wickelman and Catherine Greninger.

How many of his flock know that Archbishop Alexander Sample is a devotee of the nightly television show “Jeopardy” and watches it as often as his busy schedule allows? Roman Catholic Challenge, which celebrated its 30th anniversary match Jan. 27-28 at Valley Catholic School, gave the archbishop the opportunity to emcee one of its four championship rounds.

Alex Trebek, watch out.

Special tribute was given on this anniversary year to the late Franciscan Sister Mary John Morriss. Sister John, a faith formation teacher frustrated with the quality of knowledge in her students, in 1978 heard that early Jesuits trained their seminarians by having them compete in contests with other seminarians throughout Europe.

With the approval of her superiors at Our Lady of Peace Retreat House, the cooperation of some priests and the help of many volunteers, the “College Bowl” format with the “Jeopardy” style questions and answers was unveiled in 1988. The contest has been held every year since.

Many of the current coaches were once contestants. The children of that first generation of contestants are now sparring with each other with their hands poised over their buzzers, listening carefully to the emcee, hoping to be the first to buzz in and answer correctly.

“From what you learn, you really grow in your personal life, because you know more about what you believe,” explains Jacqueline Workman, one competitor-turned-coach. “At first, it’s about winning the money, but it becomes more than that.”

At the customary noontime Saturday Mass, Archbishop Sample underscored that more important than the competition is the time that students spend in learning and preparation. More important yet, he said, is “being able to explain your faith when some other young person asks a question.” The archbishop told youths that ultimately, “You have to go deeper than knowledge, you must have a living faith and relationship with Jesus Christ.”

On average, 35 teams come each year from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. There are four divisions to cover 5th through 12th graders with age appropriate questions and corresponding monetary prizes, including scholarships for older winners.

Jeopardy-style quizzes range in difficulty from “This is the third person of the Blessed Trinity” to “The first religious order founded in the United States.”