Tomorrow, hundreds of millions of people across the world will tune in to Super Bowl LII between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots. It’s the most watched sporting event in America, and Morning Air® had the opportunity to sit down with a priest who has a unique insight into one of this year’s Super Bowl teams.
Fr. Tom Barcelona has been Catholic Chaplain of the Philadelphia Eagles since 2004, which coincidentally also happens to be the last year that the team went to the Super Bowl. He has been with the Eagles through many seasons that have brought both ups and downs for the team. “There’s good seasons and there’s bad seasons. We have the ups and the downs but never give up. I’ve been here with three coaches … each a different style but each keeping the faith, too. When there’s a valley there’s also a hill.”
Every NFL team has a chaplain. Fr. Tom doesn’t travel with the Eagles to away games, but has worked out a system with the Catholic Athletes for Christ to ensure that there is a priest present to celebrate Mass with the team in every city they visit. He celebrates Mass for each the Eagles’ home games. “I do it the night before, 6:30 at night. I come about an hour before in case anybody has confessions, and then do our Mass and afterwards I join them for dinner.”
He also offers spiritual direction and advice to players and coaches. “For almost six months out of the year they’re away from families, fiancées, friends. Travelling and you eat, sleep, [breathe] football so it’s a time of challenge.”
Fr. Tom not only celebrates Mass for the players, but also may help them with marriage prep or celebrate the baptism of their children. “They may have a problem or had a bad game the week before,” and Fr. Tom is there in case they need someone to talk to.
The Eagles team has a great Christian atmosphere, says Fr. Tom. “With every injury and just in this season the amount of injuries and players being pulled out, and then with Carson [Wentz] and with his injury, they never gave up,” he explains. “They never gave up hope and they kept the faith, too. And I think it’s a faith-filled team there right now, believing in Jesus Christ.”