Sign In For Members Join Sign In
  • Donate

  • For Members

  • Who We Are

  • Our Mission Our Faith Our History Supreme Officers About Membership Video Library
  • What We Do

  • Charity Insurance Invest Donor-Advised Funds Programs Scholarships Churchloan
  • Get Involved

  • Join Donate Find a Council Store College Councils
  • News Hub

  • Latest News Columbia Knightline Faith Response Social Media Hub
  • Contact Us

  • Safe Environment Program

  • Careers

  • Who We Are

    What We Do

    Get Involved

    News Hub

    A Championship Chaplain

    Father James Thomas Wray reflects on his role as Cincinnati Bengals chaplain before Super Bowl LVI

    By Andrew Fowler 2/7/2022
    Father Wray poses in Bengals gear prior to the team’s appearance in Super Bowl LVI. The Bengals clinched the AFC North division and then defeated the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs en route to the title game. Photo courtesy of Father James Thomas Wray

    The night before the Cincinnati Bengals square off against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, Bengals chaplain Father James Thomas Wray will celebrate Mass for coaches, staff and players.

    The Bengals’ trip to the Super Bowl marks the franchise’s first appearance in the big game since 1988; if the team wins, it will be their first victory in the Super Bowl era.

    With the city’s hopes pinned for glory on the gridiron, one might expect the top priority of the team’s Catholic chaplain to be praying for a win. As a Bengals fan who even owns a rosary in the team colors, Father Wray sincerely hopes for victory, but not as the ultimate prize for the players, coaches and staff he ministers to.

    “We don’t pray for victory, we pray that God will grant these men their heart’s desire,” Father Wray said. “These men have given their lives for this. If this will make them better men, more generous, more sacrificial, more virtuous, then absolutely grant their heart’s desire.”

    Father Wray, a member of St. Margaret of York Council 13429 in Loveland, Ohio, has been the Bengals’ chaplain for the past two years. He is one of several Knights of Columbus members currently serving as chaplains in the NFL. His work has been mostly remote thus far due to the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but that has not hindered his pastoral outreach to those in the organization.

    “He relates so well to life’s situations with real and genuine connection,” said Mark Duffner, a senior defensive assistant for the Bengals. “I think that his awareness of the struggles that people face, and his Catholic approach to assist and direct us, has been great.”

    Coaches and staff have expressed to Father Wray their desire to keep players grounded when faced with massive wealth and immense pressure to perform on Sundays.

    “You just see the spiritual battle in a man’s heart and soul when you have that kind of resource,” Father Wray said. “But you just see these coaches mentoring these young guys to be the best version of themselves.”

    The road to Father Wray’s NFL ministry was long and winding. A husband and father of two, the chaplain served more than 20 years as an Episcopal minister before converting and becoming a Catholic priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in 2015. A few years after his ordination, he became one of several priests who rotated in celebrating Mass for the Bengals.

    “One thing led to another and they said, ‘Hey, we really would like to have some continuity and stability, so it’s not a different priest every Mass or every game,” Father Wray recounted. With a love of sports, and noting a connection between sports and Scripture, he felt drawn to serve as chaplain on a more permanent basis.

    “St. Paul likens the spiritual life to an athletic contest and endurance,” Father Wray explained. “We see athletics are a showcase for the formation of virtue, generosity, selflessness and sacrifice.”

    He sees such sacrifices made by players and coaches who struggle together on the football field throughout the grueling season, which is now culminating in the biggest game of their careers.

    “It’s not enough just to have a friendship, we need something, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, to anchor the friendship: a vision of mission, team, a company, a family, something together that we can focus on,” he said. “That’s just male spirituality and I think Catholicism speaks into that.”

    As the Bengals departed for Los Angeles to vie for NFL glory, Feb. 8, Father Wray blessed the team and entrusted them to the mediation of Our Lady of Victory. Alluding to a well-known team chant, he also imparted on them a final message:

    “As we priests might say in Latin, ‘Who dey ?’”

    To learn more about the Knights of Columbus, click here.

     

    PRESS RESOURCES

    PRESS

    Logos & Emblems

    Photo Library

    Press Releases

    Recent News

    Supreme Convention

    Video Library

    PUBLICATIONS

    Chaplain's Report

    Columbia

    Fraternal Leader Advisory

    Knightline

    Knights in Action

    Share your Knights in Action News

    FOR PRESS INQUIRIES

    Please contact the
    Knights of Columbus News Bureau
    news@kofc.org, 475-255-0097

    Knights of Columbus 1 Columbus Plaza New Haven, CT 06510 203-752-4000

    Connect With #KOFC

    Who We Are

    Our Mission Our Faith Our History Supreme Officers About Membership Video Library

    What We Do

    Charity Insurance Invest Programs Scholarships Churchloan

    Get Involved

    Join Donate Find a Council Store College Councils

    Member Resources

    Sign In For Members Safe Environment Program Brand Assets Benefits
    This website uses cookies, including third-party cookies, to optimize the functionality of the website and for website analysis and statistics. To find out more about cookies and how to change your cookie settings, please go to our Cookie Policy. Click Allow if you agree to the use of cookies.