A jubilant Sister Cathy Nerney (center) cheered the Eagles on to victory at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis with (from left) her nephew, Ryan; grandnephew, Jackson; Christine, her sister in law, and Tom, her brother.

by Cathy Nerney

Ed. Note: Sister Cathy, SSJ, Ph.D., is the director of the Institute for Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Chestnut Hill College.

I can hardly put into words the excitement I felt from the moment my brother Tom asked me if I would like to go with the family to the Super Bowl. WOW! I knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime. My only regret was all the people I would need to leave behind, many of whom I would have liked to put in my pocket to give them this chance as well. Trust me, I did take you along with me in addition to many others I carried in my heart, especially my dad, who died an avid Eagles fan, and my brother Frank, our only sibling who was unable to come after suffering a severe stroke last year.

Conditions could not have been more ideal — several inches of snow and a frigid 10-degree temperature — for Philadelphia Eagles fans to pour into Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII. This was our chance to show our team that the grit and grace they had demonstrated all season long was contagious. We were there with them and for them. Yes, we are the city that loves you back!

We’ve often heard it said that “it’s only a game.” Truth is, I often have to remind myself of this when I’m totally caught up in the highs and lows of each and every game I watch. But I know I’m not alone when I say with all sincerity that the Philadelphia Eagles win (41-33) over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII was so much more than “only a game.” I can’t think of a more powerful symbol to express and point toward all that is most noble and good, wholehearted and selfless, in our human nature than this Eagles team.

Yes, their overwhelming show of love and support, of unity and trust, of total self-giving is who we are at our best and who we aspire to be more often than we are. Nothing that we do is for ourselves alone. How often did Eagles players remind us before and after the big game that we are part of a whole? No one lives or works or plays in isolation. We belong to one another.

Being right there in the U.S. Bank Stadium provided me with such an up-close-and-personal experience of this truth. My favorite part of this event was the chance to celebrate it with my family. I know we will never forget the feelings of love and togetherness we could hardly contain as the hugs and high-fives grew tighter and more frequent, as they opened out to include our huge Eagles family who surrounded us.

So many had come from far and wide for this big game! No doubt about it; we were ONE. I came to cherish even more the common language we share as an Eagles Nation. Like every ritual that brings people together who share a common value — we sang without ever growing weary, the Eagles Fight Song, “Fly, Eagles, Fly,” over and over and over! Are you singing it with me right now?

From the opening moments when team members ran onto the field carrying the jerseys of their injured teammates, such as Jason Peters, Chris Maragos and Darren Sproles, to the closing “thank you’s” of Doug Pederson and Nick Foles, this Super Bowl experience overflowed with super amounts of gratitude for a presence greater than themselves. Yes, gratitude was palpable, and it is an emotion so much more powerful than pride. It filled Eagles’ hearts as they cheered and jumped and swooned in confetti after the game — grateful to be there, grateful for this team, for their coaches and owners, for fans both there and at home. Together we celebrated a victory and more than a victory!

After searching far too often in vain for role models among our political and social leaders, we found them right here in our great city. This is what it looks like to be “men for others” — donating their paychecks, supporting public schools, serving in Haiti, praying together, caring for one another and witnessing to a unity in diversity that leaves no one behind. Yes, as the Eagles thanked God for their gifts and for their success, I have no doubt that God is returning the thanks, blanketing our land in Eagles green. Winter will soon give way to the springtime color we wore with such pride on that cold day in February when we carried home the Lombardi trophy to become for the first time in our history the city the whole world now recognizes as Super Bowl champions. This is a day we will never forget! GO, EAGLES!

This article was reprinted, with permission, from Connections, the Chestnut Hill College magazine.

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