Written by Peter G. Sánchez
Right now in pews, churches and homes across South Jersey, though, it’s all about green — midnight green, to be exact, the shade of the Super Bowl-bound Philadelphia Eagles.
With this Sunday night’s matchup of the Birds against the New England Patriots, local clergy are anticipating Hail Mary passes from Nick Foles and Immaculate Receptions from Zach Ertz to guide their beloved team to the promised land and the Lombardi Trophy.
“Excitement doesn’t do it justice,” said Father Michael Matveenko, pastor of Saint Charles Borromeo in Sicklerville and Eagles’ season-ticket holder.
He traveled to Jacksonville 13 years ago when the Eagles last played (and lost) in the Super Bowl, also against the Patriots, but he will stay closer to home this year.
“I want to be in Philly when we win, and I want to drink it all in” with the fans, he says.
Over the years, tailgating before games and cheering each touchdown, sack and field goal inside Lincoln Financial Field, Father Matveenko has formed friendships with fans young and old, starving for an NFL championship. He has ministered to them — answered their questions about the faith, heard their confessions, married them and baptized their children.
He sees these fans with enduring faith in their team, and “hope — the hallmark of the faith,” he says.
Over in Galloway Township, Our Lady of Perpetual Help pastor — and Eagles chaplain —Father Thomas Barcellona will watch the game in his rectory.
Since 2004, Father Barcellona has guided the Eagles players who seek his advice during and after the busy seasons.
“Before the NFC Championship game (against the Minnesota Vikings), I told them the keep the focus, and try to do better than you’ve done before,” he said. A message the team heeded, as they play in Minneapolis this Sunday, to bring something special back to Philadelphia.
Down in Atlantic County, the Bishop Emeritus of Camden, Joseph Galante, would find few things sweeter after celebrating his 25th year as a bishop, than an Eagles victory and parade down Broad Street.
The Philadelphia native and lifelong Eagles fan will quietly cheer his beloved team on from the comforts of his home.
Like the rest of Eagles nation, Bishop Galante holds fast to that eternal Christian virtue- hope.
“It’s going to be a great night,” he knows.