Catholics in Kansas City keep one eye on the ball, the other on eternity in Super Bowl

The Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to play in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12. Catholic fans in the Kansas City Metro weighed in on their hopes for the big game. PHOTO BY BROCK WEGNER/UNSPLASH

by Gina Christian

(OSV News) — Catholics in the Kansas City Metro area told OSV News they plan to watch Super Bowl LVII with one eye on the ball — and the other on eternity.

The Chiefs will battle the Philadelphia Eagles Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the team’s third appearance in four seasons at the Big Game, which they won in 2019 after routing the San Francisco 49ers.

While Super Bowl Sunday offers “a beautiful way to come together and to enjoy each other’s company . . . the Sabbath matters” above all, Lamar Hunt Jr., son of Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt, told OSV News.

Now president of St. Michael the Archangel Catholic High School in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Hunt Jr. admitted his students are caught up in “buzz” from the Bowl.

“We had ‘Red Friday’ last week” for the Chiefs’ team colors, he said, noting students “want a victory so we can have [a day] off.”

But amid the excitement, Hunt Jr. — who said he relies on “daily Mass, the rosary and frequent [eucharistic] adoration” — has a simple lesson for the teens.

“No matter what you do on Super Bowl Sunday, go to church,” said Hunt Jr., who will do just that with his family before attending the game. “God has something to say to you.”

The Lord also has a word for the players, coaches and staff, said Father Richard Rocha, pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine Parish in Blue Springs, Missouri, and now in his seventh year as the Chiefs’ Catholic chaplain.

Father Rocha, who will travel to Arizona for the Super Bowl, plans to celebrate a vigil Mass the night before at the team’s hotel.

“They’re young men and coaches with their families who just want to be close to Our Lord and carry out their Catholic faith,” Father Rocha — a longtime high school football coach prior to entering the seminary — told OSV News.

The liturgy and pre-game prayers are opportunities to “give [the game] to God,” as well as to “Our Lady of Victory,” said Father Rocha.

Back home in the Kansas City metro area, Kelsey Porter, special events coordinator of Catholic Challenge Sports, is organizing a Super Bowl watch party for Catholic young adults at a restaurant in nearby Shawnee, Kansas.

“We’ll start with prayer, thanking God we have the opportunity to come together, and we’ll be praying during our meal,” she told OSV News. “We’ll also just enjoy each other’s company.”

The simple gathering, marked by “just being kind and considerate” while sharing food and fun, models “what Jesus does when we let him live through us,” said Porter. “We’re fostering friendships and relationships, in whatever capacity or form that takes.”

Even watching the Big Game at home with friends is a chance to spread the Good News, said Marcus Kain, a parishioner at Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park, Kansas.

“You have that opportunity [for] fellowship with other people, to be able through shared vulnerability to create deeper connections,” Kain told OSV News. “There are plenty of authentic conversations going on at a Super Bowl party. You could find out something you didn’t even know about someone. . . . New friendships are being evoked and community is being fostered.”

Fellow Holy Spirit parishioner Jason Osterhaus agreed, telling OSV News that sports is one of God’s ways of ensuring “both a sound body and a sound spirit.”

Osterhaus added that while he takes pride in the Chiefs, he recognizes “the fate of the world does not hang on the Super Bowl.”

“Even if we lose the game, it doesn’t matter,” said Kain. “We’re blessed in an abundance of ways. We have a God who sent his only Son to die for us.”

Hunt Jr., for whom football has been “part of the fabric of life” for decades, said that outlook “honors the gift” that sports ultimately are.

“My family’s and my father’s vision . . . was to see [that] as a gift, and how it was received,” he said. “Hopefully, we will be good stewards.”

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