In the sparse setting of their convent, the 23 nuns of the Salesian Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province have a new prayer intention, that the San Antonio Spurs win the championship.
With basketball players' names pinned to white smocks beneath their habits, the nuns have become ardent supporters of the Spurs.
It all started when Sister Filomena Conte, took up the cause. Sr. Filomena was the most avid fan in the convent. She watched or listened to every game, praying for the team and even corresponding with Coach Gregg Popovich.
The enthusiastic sister’s support knew no limits. When she suffered from a congestive heart condition and was ordered onto bed rest, she would listen to the games on the radio. When she was ordered to a hospital, she had one question as she waited with another sister: "Am I going to have a room before the game starts?"
Unfortunately, Sister Conte passed away on March 8th. Since her passing, the rest of the sisters have taken up her passion. “We pray for them to win, but we also pray for them to continue their sportsmanship," said Sister Sandra Neaves, the superior of the order in the Western U.S.
"We make a lot of noise in that room," laughed Sister Angelina Gomez.
The Spurs have embraced the nuns, hoping to bring the power of prayer to the court during their attempt at a fourth NBA title.
"Having them in our corner can never hurt, and we'll take any advantage we can," said Spurs spokesman Tom James. "We're obviously fortunate in this city to have wonderful fans of all ages and from all walks of life."
On Thursday, four of the nuns will attend the opening game of the championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, courtesy of the NBA.
The other nuns who can’t attend in person will watch from the convent. Neaves said not all will be able to keep cheering through the end of the late game; many are elderly and some are ill. But she said they will be cheering at tip-off with popcorn and prayers.
Commenting on the advantages of being Spurs fans, Neaves said, "Our work is mostly with young people so you go where the young people are," she said. Rooting for the Spurs also gives them a chance to show youngsters that "you can be faithful to a lifestyle that is upright and true and do a lot of fun stuff."