Celebrating Mass for Eagles, Patriots a joy for East Coast priests

| January 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

Catholic coaches and players of the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles have clear game plans for making Sunday Mass in the midst of prepping for big games each week.

Father Thomas Barcellona

Father Thomas Barcellona

Father Tom Barcellona and Msgr. Mike Foley celebrate Mass for the respective Super Bowl-bound teams they serve.

“I have great respect for these men,” Msgr. Foley said. “They work really hard.”

Msgr. Foley, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, received a call from the Patriots’ hotel one morning in 1990 to celebrate Mass for the team’s Catholic coaches and players, and he has done it ever since. He’s not the team’s official Catholic chaplain, however; they don’t have one.

“I see it as just trying to serve,” said Msgr. Foley, pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist in Westborough.

Father Barcellona has served as the Eagles Catholic chaplain since 2004, the last season the team went to the Super Bowl. In addition to Mass, he offers pastoral guidance and sacramental preparation for players and coaches alike. He also attends practices and home games.

A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Father Barcellona said serving the team has been an enjoyable experience. His main assignment is at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which has campuses in Galloway and Egg Harbor City, New Jersey, almost 60 miles away from the Eagles’ headquarters in Philadelphia. He’s happy to make the drive, as he sees the ministry’s necessity for the coaches and players engaged in the NFL’s demands, including substantial time away from family. “During the season, they pretty much live, breathe and eat football,” Father Barcellona said of the players and coaches.

Msgr. Mike Foley

Msgr. Mike Foley

He also helps provide priests for visiting teams across the NFL through his role on the board for Catholic Athletes for Christ. The nationwide ministry works with athletes of all levels to live the Catholic faith.

Although he normally doesn’t attend road games, Father Barcellona hopes to come to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl, as he attended the Eagles’ last Super Bowl in 2005. The Eagles also faced the Patriots in that game, falling 24-21.

Msgr. Foley hasn’t been to any of the Patriots’ previous eight Super Bowl appearances in the past 21 years, and he won’t attend this year’s game in Minneapolis. However, he has enjoyed the team’s success and the opportunity to see a bright side of a sometimes scandal-marked team.

“My experience of the Patriots has been extremely positive,” he said.

Besides the Eagle’s teamwork, Father Barcellona has appreciated the Christian witness among a significant number of players, Catholic or not. That includes quarterback Nick Foles crediting God in a post-game interview after the Eagles’
Jan. 21 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

“It’s a family setup,” Father Barcellona said of the Eagles.

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