The Catholic leadership of both Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, went the whole nine yards with their Super Bowl wager this year -- but Catholic Charities has scored the most.
In what has become a tradition between bishops when their hometown teams face off at the Super Bowl, Bishop James V. Johnston Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez of Philadelphia kicked off the weekend of Super Bowl LVII with a friendly wager. Depending on the game's outcome, the losing city's bishop would make a $500 donation to the winning city's Catholic Charities or Catholic social services.
The two clergy exchanged banter about the game on the weekly EWTN News "In Depth" TV program Feb.10, with Archbishop Pérez warning his brother bishop to get the checkbook ready. But the Kansas City Chiefs ultimately prevailed, winning 38-35 against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Feb. 12 game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
"This morning Archbishop Pérez called my office and said the check is on the way, so I want to thank him and his diocese for being such good sports," said Bishop Johnston in a video posted on his Facebook and Twitter Feb. 13. "But you know, Catholic Charities in both our diocese and archdiocese do so many good things, I intend to send him a donation for the Catholic Charities appeal for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia."
"Whether you're celebrating this week or feeling the agony of defeat, we can all count ourselves as winners by supporting our Catholic Charities agencies, who do so much to serve and to lift," Bishop Johnston continued.
"As we approach the Lenten season here very soon, I just want to encourage all of you to consider as part of your almsgiving, or just giving some of your time and your talent, to Catholic Charities," Bishop Johnston said. "This is a way that we can truly benefit our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable.
While Bishop Johnston congratulated the Chiefs on the win and thanked Our Lady of Victory for her intercession, he wouldn't mind if they faced the Eagles again at the Super Bowl next year.
"It was such a great game, and even though the Chiefs fans are celebrating this week the Philadelphia Eagles fans have so much to be proud of -- the game could have gone either way," he said.
For the past several Big Games, bishops have made wagers of food and/or charitable donations on the outcome of the Super Bowl.
For the 2022 Super Bowl, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles and Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr of Cincinnati made a friendly wager over the outcome of the gridiron faceoff between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals.
The Rams won Super Bowl LVI, but students in Catholic schools in both archdioceses were winners as well. Donors contributed more than $22,000 for tuition assistance scholarships to each archdiocese's Catholic Education Foundation. The archbishops invited supporters to become involved in their good-gesture wager through the Bishops Big Game challenge.
For Super Bowl LV in 2021, Bishop Johnston was again in the spotlight for a wager with the Chiefs’ competitor that year: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, home team for Bishop Gregory L. Parkes of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Schools in their respective dioceses -- St. Elizabeth's in Kansas City and St. Paul's in St. Petersburg -- collected cans of soup for a Souper Bowl food drive for local food pantries and made a wager to contribute to each other’s efforts. The outcome of the games meant St. Elizabeth's sent barbecue to their Florida counterpart.