Villanova Basketball Star Finds God and a Full Life as a Cloistered Nun

David Bjorkgren
Image of Shelly Pennefather, now Sister Rose Marie, via ESPN.

In 1991, Shelly Pennefather, 25, gave up a career in basketball, and life with her own family, to become a cloistered nun, writes Elizabeth Merrill for ESPN.

Pennefather scored 2,408 points at Villanova University, and won the Wade Trophy in 1987 for best women’s college basketball player.

She secured a $200,000contract to play basketball in Japan with the Nippon Express .

But Pennefather gave it all up to join the Poor Clares, one of the strictest religious orders in the world.  Shelly, now Sister Rose Marie, will never leave the monastery, unless there’s a medical emergency.

She gets two family visits per year, conversing through a screen. Once every 25 years, she can hug her family.

In June 2019, at 53, she celebrated the 25-year anniversary of her solemn profession and renewal of her vows.

“I’ll be here at 103 if you can hang in there,” her mother, Mary Jane, told her.

She hugged nieces and nephews she had never touched before. She embraced siblings whose hair had turned from dark to gray.

“I love this life,” Sister Rose Marie told them. ” It’s so peaceful. I just feel like I’m not underliving life. I’m living it to the full.”

Read more about Sister Rose Marie here.

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