A baseball season and team are not often synonymous with religious or spiritual themes, but…
In Houston, #RallyNuns may be Astros’ secret weapon as World Series opens
HOUSTON (CNS) — There might be angels in the outfield, but in the Space City, the Houston Astros have Dominicans in the stands.
And in a sea of orange and blue garb, their bright white Dominican habits and black veils stand out.
Dubbed the “Rally Nuns,” the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province, a growing congregation of Vietnamese consecrated women religious in Houston, became a viral sensation when they filled the rows of Minute Maid Park for two games of the American League Championship Series in Houston in late October.
The Astros won both games, helping them topple the Boston Red Sox to punch their ticket to the World Series.
The sisters were set to return for Game 1 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves Oct. 26, thanks to Houston legend Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, a Catholic businessman well-known for his charity.
Dominican Sister Mary Catherine Do, who previously taught at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Houston and now teaches in Shiner, Texas, threw the first pitch of Game 6 of the ALCS.
She joins an elite list of Galveston-Houston Catholics who have taken to the mound, including Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and his predecessor, retired Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza, as well as a number of Catholic school teachers and superintendents.
Though she isn’t the first sister to go viral for her throw — that would be Chicago’s Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, also a Dominican — Sister Mary Catherine stepped into the limelight to remind the Astros that “this is our time!”
Wearing a custom jersey with “RALLY NUNS” declared on the back (it also matched her white habit perfectly), Sister Mary Catherine took to the field, her black rosary beads swinging with each jovial step.
Crossing near home plate, she pointed a finger heavenward. A few long steps shy of the pitcher’s mound, she turned around and faced the catcher and, after a brief pause — maybe a quick Memorare, the prayer asking for Mary’s intercession? — she gave the ball some heat for a successful floating first pitch.
Then, in a quick sequence that only a consecrated religious woman could do, Sister Mary Catherine raised her glove and pitching arm in celebration, pointed to her wrist in a tongue-in-cheek reference to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa’s “it’s time” move, flipped her veil over her shoulder, then pointed at her congregation in the stands behind her near where Tal’s Hill once stood. The grassy knoll had to give way to a ballpark upgrade a few years ago.
Finally pointing again heavenward, as the crowds cheered, she slowly made her way down the baseline to greet Orbit the Astros mascot as Red Sox and Astros staff slowly filled their dugouts.
Though no longer teaching within the archdiocese, Sister Mary Catherine teaches at St. Paul Catholic High School in Shiner about two hours from the downtown Houston stadium. Her congregation is well-known throughout the archdiocese, active in many catechetical roles and teaching positions at parishes and Catholic schools in the region.
Explaining her post-pitch watch-pointing celebration move, Sister Mary Catherine told the Houston Chronicle that she “did that, because this is the Astros’ time, this is our time, this is it.”
McIngvale gifted a number of tickets to the sisters for both Game 1 and Game 6 of the ALCS. A longtime parishioner of Assumption Catholic Church in Houston, the Gallery Furniture maven has been an outspoken advocate for Catholic education and his faith.
He has supported many Catholic schools and the University of St. Thomas, and credited his faith for his actions during Hurricane Harvey and Houston’s other major storms.
The Dominicans also join the faithful Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, the congregation that runs Incarnate Word Academy across the street from Minute Maid and next to Annunciation Catholic Church. The sisters also are well-known for their devotion and support of the Astros.
Sister Damien Kuhn, a member of the order, had a permanent season ticket for seat 31 in row 35 of Section 116.
Though she died in 2010 at age 90, Sister Kuhn is a rally sister in heaven, cheering for the Astros, alongside the Dominican sisters down below in Minute Maid Park, who wave their rally towels and clutch their rosary beads.
James Ramos is a staff writer and designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.