The Deacon's Bench

Of course, any team named the Saints would have a priest on board.

But the Colts?


Sunday’s Super Bowl contenders have been well-coached–both in football and in spiritual fitness. The Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints each include a Catholic priest on their chaplaincy rosters, and they have played an instrumental role in helping these conference champions with their life both on and off the field

Fr. Peter Gallagher has ministered to the Colts since 1996, becoming their full-time Catholic chaplain in 2002 in addition to his duties as a parish priest. He celebrates Mass for Catholic players the night before every game, and has at times helped prepare players to receive sacraments. In Miami Fr. Peter will offer an additional Mass for the players’ families on Sunday morning. He will also touch base with each of the Colts’ Catholic players before the game to make sure they are spiritually ready.

Over the years Fr. Peter has seen many players put a high priority on spiritual development, so much so that it has become central to the team’s identity.

“Prayer is a natural habit for this team,” he told Catholic Online. “I have seen them grow in their faith, especially players that have been around for awhile. They have developed a sense of gratitude to God for all they have accomplished.” Fr. Gallagher said that veterans have provided mentorship for younger players, and have talked to them about how to prepare for the high pressure, temptation-laden experience that has become the Super Bowl. Their message is to stay focused on the game alone, and to avoid the surrounding distractions and temptations.

Fr. Gallagher says that paramount in the Colts’ spiritual preparation for the Super Bowl is the realization that when all is said and done football is a game, and win or lose, life is going to continue with its higher challenges and expectations. Preparation for those battles is more important than training for gridiron glory, and Fr. Gallagher is a key player in those efforts.

Likewise the New Orleans Saints are blessed with a Catholic priest to guide them on their faith journey. Fr. R. Tony Ricard has ministered to the Saints since 1999, becoming their full-time Catholic chaplain the following year while also pastoring a parish. He celebrates Mass the night before every home game and tends to players’ spiritual needs. Growing up as a Saints fan, he began to see at an early age the spiritual lessons that can be drawn from football.

Find out more about what those lesson are at the link.

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