Why This NFL Super Bowl Championship Team is Connected to Catholic History
Did you know there is an NFL team connected to American Catholic history?
You might have guessed the New Orleans Saints or the Arizona Cardinals. It is not that obvious – plus, the Saints apply to the universal Church and the Cardinals are named after a bird.
Need a hint? Think 37 miles.
Father Juan Crespí described in his Nov. 1769 journal that the bay the Europeans first saw was so large “that not only the Navy of our most Catholic Majesty but those of all Europe could take shelter in it.”
How about this? In 2015, Pope Francis canonized the Franciscan priest that this answer is intimately connected to.
Hopefully you did not select one of the teams in Super Bowl LVII – the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
Philadelphia has a predominantly Protestant and anti-Catholic history. Kansas City’s early history is full of rugged fur trappers and pioneer priests.
The answer is the San Francisco 49ers, the five-time Super Bowl champions who last won the big game in 1994.
Though named after the many who came from the Eastern Seaboard and midwest seeking gold, the team represents the city that shares the name of Mission San Francisco de Asís, the sixth of the 21 California missions. They also play in Santa Clara, sharing the name of Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth of the 21.
The 21 California missions, founded by Saint Junípero Serra, OFM (1713-1784), dot the state for 800 miles.
The first, Mission San Diego de Alcalá, was consecrated in 1769. The last, Mission San Francisco Solano, popularly known as Mission Sonoma, was founded in 1823.
Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, is in Santa Clara, 37 miles south of the team’s second home, Candlestick Park. Levi’s is located at the southernmost point of San Francisco Bay.
Mission San Francisco de Asís, popularly known as Mission Dolores, was consecrated October 9, 1776.
The current building was completed in 1791, making it the oldest intact of the 21 California missions and the oldest structure in the city and county of San Francisco. Virtually visit the mission here.
Mission Santa Clara de Asís, the eighth of the 21 California missions and the first mission in California named after a woman, is located the Santa Clara campus, a Catholic Jesuit university. Virtually visit this mission here.
When you read “This NFL team is connected to American Catholic history” on Jeopardy, be sure to respond, “Who is the San Francisco 49ers?”
Then, say a little prayer to St. Junípero Serra, Apostle of California, and Pablo Tac, holy California mission Indian, seminarian, and scholar.
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[See also: 10 Facts about the Great St. Junípero Serra Every Catholic Needs to Know!]
[See also: When Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady Met Pope St. John Paul II]
Christian Clifford is an educator and author who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and son. For more information, visit Missions1769.com.
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