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Minneapolis Parish throws party for homeless displaced by Super Bowl

MINNEAPOLIS — A woman exclaimed, "Right there, that's what I thought!" as she watched Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles throw the first touchdown of the Super Bowl Feb. 4.

Watching the game on a TV at St. Olaf Church in downtown Minneapolis, she cheered all the more when the Eagles were on defense, exclaiming "don't let them get a touchdown" as they held the New England Patriots to a field goal on their first drive.

Later, she yelled, "Yes," as the Eagles broke up another pass by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The Eagles went on to beat the Patriots 41-33.

The woman, whose first name is Niiki, and 57 other homeless guests spent Feb. 1-4, Super Bowl weekend, at St. Olaf. Their stay concluded with a party for the game on their last night. They moved to St. Olaf for the weekend to accommodate the temporary closure of First Covenant Church's shelter, run by St. Stephen's Human Services, due to its close proximity to U.S. Bank Stadium, where the game was played, and the surrounding security perimeter.

"It went pretty smoothly. Folks were in pretty high spirits for most of the weekend," said Michelle Perrin, a shelter advocate for St. Stephen's Human Services.

St. Stephen's, a nonreligious organization in Minneapolis founded by parishioners of St. Stephen's Parish in Minneapolis, worked with St. Olaf on the move and cared for the guests during their stay. St. Stephen's asked The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, to use only first names of homeless guests in the story.

Around 20 volunteers from St. Olaf served food throughout the weekend and visited with guests. Guests slept on mattresses, moved from First Covenant, in the St. Olaf social hall, a large room adorned with ceiling chandeliers and ornate candle wall sconces.

"This location is spectacular," said Shawn, one of the guests. "I know this is a banquet room where I'm (staying), but they made it work."

Stephany, another guest, said she would look at the chandeliers as she fell asleep. She also found something more than a good night's rest. "I was really at peace when I came here," Stephany said. "They (St. Olaf) had a lot of volunteers to just sit down and speak with you."

Stephany said part of homelessness for her has been a healing process, which began with getting away from a domestic violence situation. Shawn's path to homelessness resulted from rent payment issues. Melissa, a Boston native and Patriots fan, has been homeless for five years due to a poor rental history, though she has held a job.

"A lot of people have been doing this for so long, for so many years, it's a cycle for them," Melissa said about homelessness. "It's hard to get out."

St. Olaf parishioners have been engaged with outreach to the homeless beyond Super Bowl weekend. The parish has a Samaritan ministry that provides hospitality to the homeless, and the parish hosts a resource program funded by Hennepin County. St. Olaf also owns the Exodus Residence, a transitional home run by Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis for people who have recently become homeless.

"That's one of the main reasons why I like to come to St. Olaf, the very strong commitment to the homeless," said Margaret Lauer, a parishioner of St. Olaf who volunteered for the Super Bowl party. 

Knights of Columbus event provides students with coats, chance to meet football players

MINNEAPOLIS — Students of St. John Paul II Catholic Preparatory School in Minneapolis joyfully put on brand new coats as current and former members of the Minnesota Vikings greeted them.

Backup quarterback Kyle Sloter and former offensive lineman Matt Birk high-fived the children, posed with them for pictures and signed autographs. Sloter and Birk partnered with the Knights of Columbus' annual Coats for Kids drive, which takes place each Super Bowl week in the host city.

"It's another example of how I think the Knights step up and do good things," said Birk, who also is a member of the Knights of Columbus. "With the Super Bowl here, it's a good time to remind people of what's important. It's not the be all and end all."

The Knights distributed the donated coats to the school's 119 students in the gym during a morning program that included a bit of the pageantry surrounding the city the week of the game.

Members of Minnesota Knights of Columbus councils helped distribute the coats, donated by the Supreme Council. Birk spoke to the student body about teamwork and faith. He also reminded the students of their dignity.

Mark McMullen, who represented the Supreme Council at the event, said that since the inception of the drive, more than 500,000 new coats have been donated. Knights councils around the U.S. participate in Coats for Kids throughout the year.

— Matthew Davis, Catholic News Service 

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