January 31, 2014 — Anticipation and suspense hung heavy in the air before the 2014 American Football Conference championship game between the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos, but in the midst of the excitement, Jesuit Father Phil Steele helped the Broncos make time for prayer.
Fr. Steele celebrates Mass for the Denver Broncos before each big game. The Jan. 19 game — the biggest one yet this season, with the winner advancing to the Super Bowl — was certainly no exception. “For a Broncos’ victory, let us pray to the Lord,” the team prayed on the eve of the game.
The Jesuit, who is a Denver native and longtime Broncos’ fan, explained that his own prayers don’t usually include such specific appeals for a win. “I’m always kind of delicate when it comes to what we pray for during the prayers of the faithful,” he said. “I honestly believe God didn’t care if the Broncos or the Patriots won.” Typical intentions request that each player play to the best of his ability and be protected from injury and that existing injuries heal.
But the 15 players, coaches and family members gathered for the pre-game private liturgy were undoubtedly praying hard for victory in their hearts, a victory they earned by defeating the Patriots 26-16. The Broncos will next take on the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII, which will be held in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2.
Fr. Steele won’t be traveling with the team, but said he’ll be offering up his prayers for the team’s health, athletic performance and ability to collaborate that day. “I figure if all those things happen, they’ll win.”
He finds his work with the Broncos fulfilling – and being a Broncos’ fan himself naturally helps. “It’s a fun way to minister, I enjoy it,” he said.
In addition to serving as a chaplain for the Broncos for the past eight years, Fr. Steele serves as the president of Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colo. The school’s Jesuit community has ministered to the Broncos since the school moved their campus to Aurora in 1990, just three miles from the Broncos’ headquarters.
The Broncos accommodate the team’s diversity in beliefs with an additional non-denominational service on Saturdays. Fr. Steele attested to the members’ dedication to nurturing their spirituality.