Warm-hearted Broncos give away more than coats

About 200 students at Sacred Heart School in Jersey City, N.J., tried to sit still as they anxiously awaited the arrival of members of the Super Bowl-bound Denver Broncos Jan. 28. When a contingent of players and coaches entered the cafeteria, the room erupted with cheers and applause.

Team members, in coordination with the Knights of Columbus, visited the inner-city school in the heart of New Jersey that day—following participation at Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day—to distribute coats 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 FOXCT at the event. “We just want to do whatever we can to help them.”

The 100-year-old school, that adheres to the educational tradition of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, 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.

“I remember at that age I dreamed about playing the Super Bowl,” said Knighton, 27. “There are kids in this room that are thinking about it, that play football, and I just want to give back to them and let them know that they can make it.”

Other Broncos participating included: defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and his wife Linda, 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 the Bronx in New York City.

They were joined by members of the Knights, including Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, as well as retired New York Mets All-Star catcher Mike Piazza; Ray McKenna, president of Catholic Athletes for Christ; and missionaries and student-athletes from Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., involved with Varsity Catholic, a ministry of Fellowship of Catholic University Students.

The celebrity guests mingled, signed autographs and helped students pick out and try on new coats, and in the end, provided much more than outer wear.Go Broncos - Pope Francis

“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.

“They will never be the same as they go home to whatever their circumstances might be,” Bruno continued. “But they will be forever changed and that, more than coats, is exactly what they needed.”

Linda Del Rio, Denver Catholic and wife of Jack Del Rio, was one of the event organizers.

“That’s the goal: the kids, faith and the power of sport within it,” she said. “John Paul II really understood this.”

Del Rio also organized an event last October when Knights and Broncos joined forces to distribute 1,000 coats to kids in northern Colorado, including students at Annunciation School and victims of the Front Range Floods. Since Coats for Kids (www.KofC.org/coats) started in 2009, more than 170,000 new coats have been provided to children.

“The Knights of Columbus is committed to helping our neighbors in need,” Anderson said. “We are grateful to Jack and Linda Del Rio, and to the other Broncos players and coaches who had taken time out of their busy schedule to assist us in helping local children.”

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.

Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash