As the UConn men prepared for the national title game against Kentucky Monday, the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist, a Meriden-based order of Catholic nuns, was busy praying for a program they first became fond of when a certain Catholic from Boston took over the program.
The sisters forged a relationship with former UConn men’s basketball coach Jim Calhoun in 1986, his first season at the helm. And, the nuns were courtside for the program’s first national championship 15 years ago.
“It was a thrill. It was just a thrill,” said Sister Mary Richards. “And, of course, we went back that evening and we were up until 3 o’clock in the morning.”
They won’t likely be up that late this evening, but they will be watching with confidence. What’s the reason for their calmness? Three of the sisters work at the Vatican, in direct contact with Pope Francis.
“He would not want us to lose,” said Mother Shaun Vergauwen, with a smile. “I am sure.” Vergauwen added that second year head coach Kevin Ollie “is a genius.”
As for whether Pope Francis will be rooting for the UConn women to win what would be an unprecedented ninth women’s title, one would have to guess no. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies face a certain Catholic university, Notre Dame.