By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator 

What began as a quirky idea among two high school buddies reverberated from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to New York City.  

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Hours before the NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago on May 14, Baton Rouge sports talk show host Matt Moscona asked longtime friend Father Michael Alello to be a guest and say a prayer the Pelicans would get the No. 1 pick in the draft and the opportunity to draft Duke megastar Zion Williamson. The Pelicans’ chances appeared unlikely, as New Orleans was given a six percent chance of landing the top pick in the NBA’s new lottery process.  

“(Moscona) had this crazy idea,” said Father Alello, pastor of St. Thomas More Church in Baton Rouge. “He said that if (the Pelicans) were going to win the NBA (top) draft pack, get a priest to come on and pray. It was just that.” 

But Father Alello had a plan of his own, which he admitted was initially a disappointment to Moscona and others.  

“He wanted me to pray for specific things and I went in and do what I do best,” Father Alello said. “We don’t pray for specific things. I said let’s pray that whatever happens is what needs to happen. 

“I got ragged off the air. Everybody in the studio said that my prayer stunk. (Moscona) was disappointed. He said all I had to do was pray the Pelicans get the first pick.” 

Not long after the show signed off, however, the NBA world was stunned when the ping pong balls determining the draft order bounced the Pelicans’ way, creating Gotham gloom in the Big Apple and Bourbon Street bliss in the Big Easy. New York Knicks fans were all but certain the balls would bounce their way and land Williamson in midtown Manhattan. 

From his rectory, Father Alello, who was not watching when the lottery order was announced, smiled. 

“Look what happened,” he said with a chuckle. “Let’s go back to my prayer that was terrible. Let’s talk about that.” 

His social media account was overrun with long-suffering Pelican fans and friends offering their thanks and congratulations. 

Moscona even invited Father Alello to return to the show the next day. Naturally, given a chance to serve up a serving of crow, who could refuse? 

“It was great, it was hysterical,” Father Alello said. “It was 15 minutes of bantering back and forth.”

Despite the frenzy and jocularity of the moment, Father Alello also stressed the spiritual side of the zaniness. 

“Here is an opportunity to get the message out in a market not used to hearing a Catholic priest,” he said. “Amid the goofiness of the interview, the fact I was able to invite people to pray, to slow down and invite them, to realize that God doesn’t always give us what we want, but if we are open to what God wants for us, God is the God of surprises,” he said. “Let’s be surprised sometimes.”