New Orleans had the Saints.
Philly had the Sisters -- of Saint Joseph, that is.
They are quite the Eagles fans, and from the nine-story villa in Flourtown where many of them live to Chestnut Hill College, where many of them work, they have been cheering on the team together for quite a long time, about 30 of them doing so again Sunday evening in a community room at the residence.
That includes foreign language teacher Sister Margaret Mary Murphy, 79, who sported an Eagles sweatshirt that read “Volate Aquilae Volate,” Fly Eagles Fly in Latin, a gift from some high school students.
And Sister Rosemary Scheirer, 82, who said she’s been an Eagles fan ever since she could understand what football was.
And Sister Adele Solari, 85, who appeared to be calm the entire game, as she sat knitting a pink baby’s hat for a villa staffer.
But calm she wasn’t.
“I dropped a stitch at the last touchdown,” she said, referring to the second Eagles score, when quarterback Nick Foles, St. Nick as he has come to be known, gave the Eagles a 14-0 lead. “Now I have to go back and fix it.”
They were a faithful bunch, who burst into singing “Fly Eagles Fly” both times the team scored in the first quarter. There was an order to it, as one would expect with nuns. When one sister began to sing before the extra point kick, Sister Mary William Herron corrected her.
“Not until the kick. You’ve got to stick to the ritual,” she said.
The room turned more quiet in the second half as things began to look increasingly dire.
When the Saints took the lead in the third quarter, Sister Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College, slipped off to the chapel to pray.
Not much could shake the faith of these fans. It’s only been bolstered by the contingent of Eagles players who have been public about their faith in God and how it is the guiding principle in their lives. Most prominent are quarterbacks Foles, who wrote about his faith in his book Believe It: My Journey of Success, Failure, and Overcoming the Odds, and Carson Wentz, who started a faith-based foundation in 2017.
Tight end Zach Ertz, wide receiver Jordan Matthews, and backup quarterback Nate Sudfeld are others of deep religious faith. Some of the players pray together. They’re also involved in youth ministry. Foles provided Bibles to the Philadelphia-area Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and along with other players participated in fellowship “huddles” with athletes in local schools.
Their charitable work and success has only made the spotlight brighter on the importance of faith, said Sister Carol.
“It’s a time when we really need to see people who are strong and competent and successful and educated standing for the right kind of values, and they do that,” she said.
While the sisters may pray for a win, they said they pray harder that no one -- not even an Eagles opponent -- gets hurt.
“It’s most important to me that they’re safe,” said Sister Roberta Archibald, 79.
At their game-watching gathering Sunday, there was no cursing. But when the Saints attempted field goals, Sister Carol quietly chanted “miss, miss, miss, miss.”
“It worked last week,” she said, referring to the Chicago Bears' “double-doink” miss that enabled the Eagles to win the wild-card game.
When Saints player Keith Kirkwood scored a touchdown and blessed himself in the end zone, there were laughs and audible groans.
“The Eagles are supposed to be the spiritual team,” Sister Rosemary explained. “Of course, he is a Saint.”
Some of the Saint Joseph sisters have been fans since they were children, growing up in the Philadelphia area.
Sister Peg Tobin is 89. Years spent as an Eagles fan? 88, she says.
What really sealed Sister Mary William’s love for the team was working at Stella Maris Catholic School in South Philadelphia and living nearby, where she could hear the loud cheering from the stadium area and would join in.
Some sisters came to Eagles fandom a bit later, including Sister Carol. She grew up in the Washington area and was a -- gulp -- Redskins fan. Once, she confessed, she went to a home game when the Eagles were playing the Redskins and wore a Redskins sweatshirt under her coat. The other team she really liked was the Dallas Cowboys, something about Roger Staubach, the team’s quarterback in the 1970s.
The sisters waited and watched, hoping for an evolution in her thinking. It happened about 15 years ago, Sister Carol said, when she was driving home from a fund-raiser on the Schuylkill Expressway and knew it was time.
The sisters are especially inspired by Foles' comments about the importance of relationships on the team. Their order, which originated in France and came to the United States in the 1800s, also emphasizes relationships.
“We consider everyone our dear neighbor,” said Sister Peg Fleming, 84. “We want to be in relationship with all.”
They like that Foles credits God for his outstanding performance.
And in the final minutes of Sunday’s game, when a Foles pass sailed through the hands of wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and was intercepted -- effectively ending any last chance at victory the Eagles had -- the sisters were heartened by what happened next.
The camera flashed to Foles and coach Doug Pederson lovingly comforting a crushed Jeffery.
“What was most important was how he felt, not what had happened,” Sister Carol said. “They exhibited the essence of the good relationships that had been built within the team. That’s what’s important in life.”
Earlier in the game, when she had slipped off to the chapel, Sister Carol had written in its book of intentions things to pray for.
First, she jotted “Eagles Victory.” Then, “An end to the government shutdown.”