Home | Contact Us
Benedictine Sisters
News Center
Harmony News
Spirit & Life Magazine
Please share media and advertising request with Kelley Baldwin, director of communications, at kelley@bspa.us or (660) 944-2221

Sisters and their sports

Sisters and their sports - (26-06-2021)

< back

PHOTO: Benedictine Sister of Perpetual Adoration Maria Victoria Cutaia enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see her Argentinian national soccer team play at Soldier Field in Chicago.

Pierre de Coubertin was a mover and shaker in the worlds of education and sports more than a century ago. A small man who stood at only 5-foot, 3-inches tall, he had big dreams and was the visionary and founder of the modern Olympics movement and its unifying effect on nations. He once remarked, “For me, sport was a religion…with religious sentiment.”

That sentiment is alive and well in the 21st century. Organized sports are a billion-dollar industry, and they have a way of uniting people across all walks of life and providing a great source of fun and entertainment.

That’s no less true in a monastery.

Legends vs. the New Kids on the Block

When visiting the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri, you can stop any one Sister and ask her if she has a favorite sports team. Odds are you’ll get an answer of “yes, of course.” And the speed of that answer directly correlates to their passion for said team.

“The New York Yankees!” answers Sister Virginia Anne Argenziano, OSB, a New Jersey native who remembers that “from my very birth there was no choice in who my favorite team would be because my family lived and breathed Yankees baseball, impatiently waiting for the start of every season.”

They attended games often, and she has fond memories of witnessing legends like Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle play ball. Her family would pack lunches and make a day of it at the ballpark. Sometimes Yankee life spilled over into home life. Yogi Berra, the team catcher with a penchant for turning a catchphrase, was an usher at their church. After entering religious life, she continued attending games during home visits with family.

As Sister Virginia Anne noted, she’s the only Yankees fan in the community but added with a grin, “Sister Sarah is a Mets fan.”

Sister Sarah would be Sister Sarah Schwartzberg, OSB who grew up in Queens, New York. She enjoys the Mets with a bit less passion than Sister Virginia Anne’s love for the boys in pinstripes but says she’s “loyal to her roots.” Perhaps her greatest connection is her memories of being a part of the team’s earliest days when she was growing up.

“The Mets were a new team, and they were terrible,” she recalled. “Once in high school, my friends and I cut classes to attend a doubleheader. We got bored after the first game and left early, but it was exciting to cut class.”

With the Benedictine Sisters’ monastery located just 90 miles north of Kansas City and the congregation’s history of communities in both Kansas City and St. Louis, it comes as no surprise that there are Royals and Cardinal fans living - somewhat peaceably - together under one roof.

Sister Kathleen Gorman, OSB went to her first Cardinals game in 1974 and admitted, “I was hooked. I loved the game!” Decades later, she often watches the games on her iPad while living at Our Lady of Rickenbach, the community’s health care facility. She’s a big fan of catcher Yadier Molina, whom she calls “amazing,” and is proud that she hasn’t caved to pressure from the Royals fans around her to change her allegiance to the team located on the other side of the state.

The Highs and the Lows

When the air turns chilly in autumn and the leaves begin to change colors, it won’t be long before Sister Laurentia Doyle, OSB pulls out her beloved Green Bay Packers knitted stocking cap. Born in Michigan, she remembers her dad listening to Packers games on the radio during her earliest years. Then the family moved to South Bend, Indiana, and another team earned a spot in their hearts: the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

“It’s in the genes,” she laughed. “We attended games, and my oldest brother graduated from Notre Dame. After I moved to Chicago to teach, I came home for games sometimes. The excitement of the experience certainly woke up the spirit.”

Since she’s no longer in Fighting Irish or Packers territory, she often relies on newspapers for scores or watches game highlights online. And she admits that some of the fun comes from giving a bit of grief to a fellow college football fan…one whose team hasn’t enjoyed similar success in recent years.

Enter Sister Ruth Elaine Starman, OSB, a born-and-bred fan of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football team.

“It’s fun to offer sympathy after a game,” Sister Laurentia grinned.

Sister Ruth Elaine’s thoughts?

“Sadly, the winds of fortune have not blown the Huskers’ way the last several years,” she said. “But once a fan, always a fan. We all bleed…red. Hah!”

During her childhood in rural Nebraska, the team’s games weren’t televised each week. So she remembers listening to games on the radio while enjoying an autumn day.

“Recent years haven’t been much fun, but the team has won several national championships in the past,” she said. “And the whole state goes crazy when that happens.”

Her memories of certain games, certain moments are deep, and she’s quick to recall them.

“The 1994 championship was great since it had been over 20 years since the last one,” she said. “Some Husker fans are probably still kind of sore about the upset loss to (the University of) Miami’s 1983 squad when we had such a great team that year.”

“Go Army, Beat Navy”

As a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Sister Nancy Rose Gucwa, OSB attended home football games as one of the academy’s mandatory activities.

“As a cadet, we had to stand during the entire game to show team spirit, and since the games were in the fall, they sometimes got quite cold! These days, I prefer to watch their games from a warm, comfortable chair in the television room,” she laughed.

Memories of cadets piling into buses for the road trips to Philadelphia for the annual Army-Navy football game are a bit more enjoyable because of the legendary rivalry between the two academies.

“That game was always exciting even though we didn’t win it much while I attended,” she said. “All these years later, as a West Point graduate, I love to tease friends and family who served in the Navy - including my dad - with a resounding ‘Go Army, Beat Navy’ when Army wins.”

Another college with a long tradition has the heart of Sister Cathleen Marie Timberlake, OSB who will tell you that very few things in life beat basketball played by the University of Kansas Jayhawks.

She credits a friend for introducing her to the team many years ago. Even now, they’ll call each other on the phone during the final minutes of an exciting game so they can “enjoy the win together.”

A dream come true would be attending a game in historic Allen Fieldhouse where the team plays home games. Until then, she follows the team on television or with her iPad. She, like many of her fellow Sisters, is also a big fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“I would not miss a televised Chiefs game - unless it’s prayer time,” she chuckled. “Prayer comes first.”

She admires players Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelsey not just for their performance on the field but also for their conduct off of it.

“They seem like genuinely good guys and generously support Kansas City with their time and donations,” she said. “It’s much like living as Christ instructed us: to help others in need.”

Hometown favorites 

Location, location, location.

It’s important in real estate, and it’s important in sports. We often love the teams in the places we call home.

Sister Wilmarie Ehrhardt, OSB has always followed the hometown teams of wherever she happened to be living at the time. She followed the Chargers and Padres when living at the congregation’s monastery in San Diego, California, and follows the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs now that she’s in Missouri. But her favorite team? Platte Valley, the co-op team comprised of two local high schools. In March, the girls’ basketball team went undefeated and finished the season with a state title.

“I was so happy for them,” she said. “They are a fun team to follow, especially considering they live here and we know many of their families.”

Growing up in Minnesota often meant two things to Sister Cheryl Morehead, OSB: Vikings football and hockey.

“I have been hoping for that elusive Super Bowl win since the ‘70s,” she joked. “But, honestly, I’m not sure if we Vikings fans would know how to react if we won the big game.”

She’s also a fan of the Olympics, as are many fellow Sisters, due to the diversity of the sports and the aspect of international competition. “But I’m probably the only one who watches hockey,” she mused. “Folks still think it’s boring and full of fights…but not so much anymore.”

But perhaps there is no one more fervent about her sports allegiance than Sister Maria Victoria Cutaia, OSB when it comes to international soccer and her homeland.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she and her family moved to the United States when she was 3 years old. They settled in Metairie, Louisiana, a large suburb of New Orleans. But the miles between her and her place of birth did nothing to diminish her love for Argentina’s national soccer team. Throw in a certain Argentinian superstar player named Lionel Messi, and you have a recipe for complete devotion.

“Messi is my all-time favorite player, and he currently plays professionally for (Spain’s FC) Barcelona,” she said. “Meeting him is on my bucket list.”

She watches Argentina and Barcelona games via livestream and follows them on social media. During her vacation in 2016, she donned a blue and white national team jersey over her monastic habit and joined her family for the Copa America tournament at Soldier Field in Chicago to see her Argentina team play Panama.

“It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me to watch my team, and Argentina won!” she said.

With the COVID pandemic shutting down sports worldwide for months, it’s comforting to see the world re-emerge from the quietness. Once again, we look to sports as one of the many ways to reach across borders and to provide a respite from some harsh realities of life or just the monotony of everyday living.

And sometimes, as many of the Sisters can attest, it’s just plain fun.