Though the final score of Super Bowl XLVIII wasn’t what the Denver Broncos had in mind, Archbishop Samuel Aquila reminded Coloradans there was still reason to rejoice.
“Not the outcome we hoped for,” he tweeted after the 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., Feb. 2. “A disappointing end to a great season for the Broncos.
“All for the glory of God!” he added. “Blessings on everyone.”
Denver’s shepherd traveled back East, at the invitation of defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and his wife Linda, who are Catholic, to celebrate Mass for the team and attend the game.
“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 earlier in the week.
The evening before the game, a small group of players and coaches gathered for an 8 p.m. Mass at an undisclosed hotel the team had moved to earlier in the day where they prayed for “guidance, strength and health,” according to the archbishop. It was the feast of the Presentation of the Lord recognizing Mary and Joseph’s trip to Jerusalem to present Christ in the temple 40 days after his birth, also known as Candlemas. During his homily, the archbishop reminded those gathered to “be a light of Christ to the world.”
He also celebrated Mass on game day: a pregame liturgy at 2:30 p.m. with a packed room of Bronco family members at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City.
Archbishop Aquila is a self-described “longtime Broncos’ fan” since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1972. After his 1976 ordination, he served as a priest in Colorado for 25 years.
“Even when I was bishop of Fargo,” he added. “I followed and rooted for the Broncos.”
He was the bishop of the Diocese of Fargo, N.D. from 2001 until his appointment back to Denver in May 2012.
Several Broncos served as a light of Christ to others while in New Jersey when they took time out to give back to the community. On Jan. 28, in coordination with the Knights of Columbus, members of the organization visited the inner-city Sacred Heart School in Jersey City to distribute coats to about 200 students through the Knights’ Coats for Kids program.
“There’s a lot of kids that don’t have the necessities to survive,” defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said in an interview with FOX CT at the event. “We just want to do whatever we can to help them.”
The 100-year-old school is the only faith-based elementary school in the eastern section of Jersey City and considers itself a true “lifeline” for the neediest of families.
Other from the Bronco organization participating were the Del Rios, defensive end Robert Ayers of Jersey City and former student at Sacred Heart, running back Knowshon Moreno from Middletown Township, N.J., safety Mike Adams from Patterson, N.J., defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and assistant secondary coach Sam Garnes from New York City.
They were joined by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, retired New York Mets All-Star catcher Mike Piazza, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ Ray McKenna, and missionaries and student-athletes from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., involved with Varsity Catholic.
The celebrity guests mingled, signed autographs and helped students pick out coats, and in the end, provided more than outerwear.
“Today I saw something I didn’t (expect), I saw hope in the eyes of the kids,” said New York City-based photographer Jeffrey Bruno, who covered the event for the Denver Catholic Register. “They looked at these legends and saw possibilities, they saw hard work and what it yields—they saw a way out.”
While Sacred Heart reports that 100 percent of their students continue to high school and many attend college; in Jersey City, less than 60 percent of students graduate from the three public high schools.
“That’s the goal: the kids’ faith and the power of sports within it,” said Linda Del Rio, event organizer. “John Paul II really understood this.”
Del Rio also organized a Denver event last October where Knights and Broncos distributed 1,000 coats to kids in Colorado, including students at Annunciation School and victims of the Front Range Flooding.