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Taylor Swift will not be the most influential person cheering on the Kansas City Chiefs when the team faces off against the San Francisco 49ers in the Feb. 11 Super Bowl.
Father Richard Rocha, the “Team Priest” for the Chiefs, will be there too, and his work has eternal influence. The priest will deliver this advice to players: “Keep grounded in your faith and focused on your purpose in life. You are here to know, love and serve God in this life and one day be happy with him in the next.”
The National Catholic Register shared that advice and other great details about the alum of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, who has served as chaplain to the Chiefs for eight years.
Father Rocha is just one of several connections Benedictine College has to the returning Super Bowl Champion Chiefs, including working with the Hunt family, which owns the Chiefs and is committed to their Christian faith.
Last February when the Chiefs won the Super Bowl, Benedictine Father Jeremy Heppler, an alum, reminded any parishioners who offered God prayers for the win, “Fellow Chiefs fan, I see you! Remember to do what you promised. See you in adoration at midnight!”
Chiefs scoring leader, kicker Harrison Butker, told Benedictine College students that those prayers are appreciated.
“I firmly believe that these prayers are helping God’s will to be done,” Butker told students, but not necessarily with regard to the outcomes of games. “If you have any mentors — people in the world that you look up to — please pray for them, because it can be a lonely time having to be that leader at the top.”
Butker, who kicked the game-winning field goal in the 2023 Super Bowl and at many games in the season leading up to the 2024 Super Bowl, lined up with Benedictine College president Stephen D. Minnis to see the body of Sister Wilhelmina when the college helped the Benedictine sisters of Gower, Mo., deal with the needs brought on by crowds eager to see the sister regarded by many as an incorrupt saint. Pictured: Harrison Butker with Father Rocha at Arrowhead Stadium and with President Minnis on the Benedictine College campus.
But Rocha is the college’s closest connection to the Chiefs. Father Rocha, 60, has been close the college his whole life, after being born in Atchison Hospital, across the street from the college’s football field. He was the third of five children whose father worked two jobs for his children to be able to afford Catholic school.
Rocha was a sophomore at Benedictine College, on a scholarship as a noseguard, when his dad died young at age 52, reported the Register. His mentors helped him, including Don Tabor, his high school coach — father of Benedictine alum Chris Tabor who coaches professionally in the NFL. The paper reports that Rocha picked up the habit of daily attendance at Mass from Don Tabor, a daily communicant.
Rocha told the Register his vocation story. After graduating college, he was a football coach at a Missouri high school when he told his parish priest something “just didn’t feel right” about his life. He also mentioned “I don’t know what I’d do without daily Mass and receiving Our Lord in Holy Communion.”
The priest said, “Coach, are you sure God is not calling you to the priesthood?”
Rocha got emotional and said, “Maybe so, Monsignor, but I don’t want to be a priest. I want to get married, have a family and coach football.”
The priest told him, “Don’t rule out the priesthood if you see yourself as a husband and father. God needs good, strong men to be husbands to his Church and fathers to his people.”
Rocha visited seminaries and then told his mother about his interest. The Register reports: “To his surprise, he learned that — for 14 years — his mother had been praying novenas to Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Jude, that God would call him to the priesthood. … ‘She said that she never missed a day praying those novenas.’”
When he became a priest, he gave his stole to Coach Tabor — a gift typically given to a new priest’s father. After serving in various capacities, including as master of ceremonies for the bishop, Father Rocha first became chaplain for the Kansas City Royals, in response to a request from designated hitter Mike Sweeney.
His work with the Royals led to his work with the Chiefs — and helped fulfill his lifelong football dreams of being on a Super-Bowl winning team. His rosary and ticket to the 2020 Super Bowl are pictured at right.
Father Rocha told the Register that “God writes straight with crooked lines,” and noted that “Now, I’m involved in such a way that I could never have imagined. It just goes to prove the old adage: God cannot be outdone in generosity.”
Photos courtesy Father Richard Rocha.