Groveton monastery part of ESPN segment on former women’s hoops star

A small Catholic monastery in the Groveton area recently figured into a powerful SportsCenter piece on a former Villanova women’s basketball star.

The Poor Clares Monastery of Mary, Mother of the Church is home to the Poor Clares sisters, an order of contemplative nuns who have taken a vow of poverty and live in near silence. The monastery, located at 2503 Stone Hedge Drive (see map), was founded by the Arlington Catholic Diocese in 1977. The sisters never leave the facility, except for medical reasons.

In June one of the Poor Clares nuns, Sister Rose Marie, renewed her vows after 25 years, an occasion that allowed her to hug family members for the first time since she took her vows. The occasion drew particular attention because Sister Rose Marie, then known as Shelly Pennefather, was an All-American basketball star at Villanova University in the 1980s.

Pennefather’s story was featured in the video segment above, and in an article on ESPN’s site here. In it, Pennefather’s family members, former coach and teammates discuss her decision to leave a lucrative professional basketball career overseas and join the strict Poor Clares order.

The article and video also captures the emotional scene as the former three-time Big East Player of the Year, now 53, reunites with her extended family and old basketball friends at the monastery in Groveton — something she will not be able to again for another 25 years.

“Shortly after the homily, two wooden doors opened and the whole chapel let out a silent gasp,” the article says. “There she was, 53 years old, standing before them, with no screen. Without even scanning the crowd, she immediately fixed her eyes on the pew where her mother sat. Her face lit up.”