(PHOTO: Sister Finnerty, courtesy NOLA.com) It turns out that Sister Kathleen Finnerty, a former principal at Rye’s Resurrection School (where Giants team president John Mara’s children attended grammar school) who is now doing God’s work (truly) as the Superintendent of Schools for the New Orleans Diocese, had her own part in the Giants unexpected, historic win.
From Kevin Manahan’s Star Ledger story:
As Eli Manning, Most Villified Player turned Most Valuable Player, drove the Giants to a championship-winning touchdown in the final minute of Super Bowl XLII, television cameras peeked at nervous team president John Mara, who reached into his shirt pocket on just about every snap of that fateful drive.
… Pacing in a luxury suite at University of Phoenix Stadium, Mara was saying a silent prayer and running his fingers over a religious medal. Yesterday, as the grinning, sleep-deprived Giants loaded their luggage and the Lombardi Trophy onto a team charter and flew east in time for today’s parade through Manhattan — in this case, the Canyon of Unsung Heroes — Mara chuckled when asked what had been in his pocket Sunday night.
"I had a little medal this nun sent me," he said. "She sent me a great letter a couple of days ago with this medal of the Blessed Virgin, and she said, ‘I guarantee you this will bring you luck.’ I did reach in for that. Did they actually show that on TV?"
… Tracked down in The Big Easy, Sister Kathleen Finnerty, Superintendent of Schools for the New Orleans Diocese, told the story behind the Our Lady of Prompt Succor medal she had sent to Mara a few days after the NFC Championship Game. While watching the Super Bowl with relatives, had she noticed Mara reaching into his pocket?
"Are you kidding?" Sister Finnerty said. "I was too busy looking for a Valium."
Turns out, the Ursuline Sisters, Sister Finnerty’s order, are fanatical football fans who watch or attend high school games on Friday nights, college games on Saturday, and NFL on Sunday. And because they are New Orleans natives, they have a soft spots for the Manning quarterbacks, who were reared there.
"Some of the sisters down here are 80 to 90 years old, and they are football addicts," Sister Finnerty said. "So when the Giants made the Super Bowl, one of them said to me, ‘We can’t let Eli down. We have to get Our Lady in on this.’ I told her, ‘Well, I know John Mara.’ So, she gave me the medal and told me to get it to him. I mailed it to him and didn’t think about it."
… "I don’t think I guaranteed a victory," she said with a laugh. "I think I wrote that the Giants could use a little divine intervention."
.. "But Our Lady has provided miracles before," Sister Finnerty said.
Actually, two miracles have been attributed to the Virgin Mother under the name of Our Lady of Prompt Succor, which is French for "Quick Help." During the Great Fire of 1812 in New Orleans, when flames were racing toward their convent in Jackson Square, the Ursuline nuns called upon Our Lady of Prompt Succor for help. The winds immediately shifted, blowing the fire in another direction and sparing the convent.
Then, in 1815, when general Andrew Jackson was tying to hold the British troops at bay and New Orleans appeared on the verge of capture, the Sisters again beckoned Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Jackson prevailed, with only 6,000 troops to fight 15,000 Brits. The city was saved.
Since then, New Orleans residents have prayed to Our Lady of Prompt Succor at the start of each hurricane season.
"We’re not exactly sure what happened two years ago with Katrina," Sister Finnerty said. "But we wanted the Giants to win. So, we prayed in a sort of full-court press. I know that’s not the right sports phrase for football, but you know what I mean. Besides, we always pray for the Manning brothers."
And for one Super Bowl Sunday, "quick help" meant 83 yards on 12 plays in 2 minutes, 7 seconds.
"Wait until I tell the other Sisters that John had the medal in his pocket the whole time," Sister Finnerty said. "Oh, they’re going to love this."