Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver will say Mass for the Denver Broncos in New Jersey the night before the Feb. 2 championship game of the National Football League.
“I have been edified by the example of many NFL athletes and coaches and their families who make the effort throughout the football season to attend Sunday Mass,” Archbishop Aquila said.
“I am sure many people are wondering what I will say to the Broncos in my homily, but all I can say is that the Holy Spirit will guide me as He wishes. What I do know, is that during the game I will be cheering for a Broncos victory!”
Archbishop Aquila said that Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and his wife Linda invited him to attend the game with their family, and say Mass for the team. The Mass will be said Saturday night for players and coaches at the Jersey City, N.J. hotel where the team is staying.
The archbishop said he is “a long-time Broncos fan,” dating back to his time as a student at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the early 1970s.
“Even when I was Bishop of Fargo, I followed and rooted for the Broncos.”
The archbishop told the Denver Post that the opportunity to be with the Broncos was “a great gift.”
“We pray for protection, good sportsmanship, for their gifts to exceed. We place it all in the hands of the Lord.”
Jack Del Rio said at a Jan. 28 media conference he was “very appreciative” of Archbishop Aquila and “glad that he’s going to be out here with us,” the Denver Post reports.
Del Rio said that at difficult times in his career “I’ve leaned harder – more fervently – on my faith.”
The Del Rios have long been active in charitable work in Colorado, and in October 2012, they helped organize a Coats for Kids giveaway with the Knights of Columbus and Catholic Athletes for Christ.
Linda Del Rio met Pope Francis in an October visit to the Vatican, and presented him with a signed Broncos football.
The Broncos’ spiritual needs are usually served by Fr. Philip Steele, president of Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo. He normally says a private Mass for the football team on weekends when they have home games, the Denver Catholic Register reports. The Jesuit community at Regis has served the Broncos for over 20 years.
Meanwhile in Washington, Fr. Tom Belleque of St. Louise Parish in Bellevue normally says Mass for Catholic members of the Seattle Seahawks.
Greg Magnoni, communications director for the Archdiocese of Seattle, told CNA Jan. 29 that Fr. Belleque “is not planning on attending the Super Bowl, but I’m sure he’d be open to the airfare and a ticket to the game if you're offering.”
Magnoni voiced hope that Archbishop Aquila would also celebrate Mass for Catholic members of the Seahawks, and said Seattle is enthusiastic about a Seahawks appearance in the Super Bowl.
“I’ve never seen our community so excited and so united around a single event. This team has galvanized a sense of community spirit throughout western Washington and the Northwest that is unique in my experience.”
“I expect the team to be welcomed home in one of the biggest celebrations this city has ever witnessed regardless of the game’s outcome,” he added, noting that over 30,000 Seahawks fans lined the route to the Seattle airport to cheer team members as they departed for New Jersey.