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Bengals Asking for Our Prayers: Father Tom Wray Ministers to Bengals as Catholic Chaplain

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by Jessica Rinaudo

With anticipation building for Sunday’s big game, Cincinnati Bengals fans are preparing to cheer and pray for their team at the Super Bowl this weekend. Among those praying is Father Tom Wray, Catholic chaplain of the Cincinnati Bengals.

Father Wray has served as the Bengals chaplain for the last two years, “during the Covid era,” which has added some extra challenges for the Catholic faithful of the Bengals franchise. Namely, most of the Masses he says for the team have to take place via Zoom.

“The NFL requires that on Saturday evenings during the season that [the coaches, team and staff] are quarantined, so they’re not able to physically be at any Vigil Mass and of course, on Sunday morning… So the league tries to make available to them their Mass obligation,” said Father Wray.

As part of his chaplaincy, Father Wray has conversations and provides spiritual guidance to those who work for the Bengals franchise.

“A lot of the time it’s coaches and staff just talking about what it’s like to be mentors and guides to these very gifted young elite athletes, and just the kind of pressure these athletes are under and then how to help them uncover the best version of themselves. And of course, that also means the supernatural dimension,” said Father Wray.

In particular, the Bengals Catholic players, coaches and staff are praying through the intercession of Our Lady of Victory this weekend. They refer to themselves as “Our Lady’s Tough Guys.” Prior to the team’s departure for California on Tuesday, Father Wray met with them at Paul Brown Stadium for prayer and a blessing. He blessed medals of Our Lady of Victory for them to carry with them on their journey. They jokingly said, “Our Lady of Victory, pray for us, Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for the Rams!”

On Superbowl Eve, he will once again say Mass for the Bengals via Zoom. During his homily he plans to encourage staff, coaches and players and tell them to trust in God, no matter what.

“[I will tell them] that Scripture and Catholic Tradition both speak of the grace and dignity of sports. Athletes have long prayed Psalm 91: “God is my refuge. God is my strong rock.” God prepared them for this moment.   Trust in Him, trust yourself release the outcome to Him….make a generous gift of yourselves to your teammates. . And love each other! Over and over again, you just hear how much these guys will lay down themselves to each other. You see it in the game. ‘I’ll take a hit for you. I’ll block for you.’ That’s very human. Very beautiful,” Father Wray said.

He continued, “ Vince Lombardi, the namesake of the Superbowl trophy and daily Mass communicant, taught a “lifetime of preparation.” They are ready for this Superbowl, to walk into  SoFi Stadium at 6:30  this Sunday, and trust that they are exactly where they need to be, that  this is who God made them to be, whatever their role is – some of them are very much support people. Not all are the top dog, …but you know, they have very, very important roles.”

The Bengals asked Father Wray to spread the word that they would like the faithful to pray for them.

“​​We pray that God would grant their hearts’ desires and that their vocation – as coaches and players – that their gifts, their service would make them better disciples, better husbands, better men, better human beings or Catholics. And if in God’s wisdom, and His vocation for them, if victory at the Super Bowl will do that, that is absolutely moral and just for us to pray for victory.”

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