Pious on the pitch

Carmelites, friends join fans for Energy soccer

By Steve Gust
The Sooner Catholic

If you happen to take in an OKC Energy soccer game, don't be surprised to find at least a few Carmelite sisters cheering their loudest.

"The soccer community loves them and has kind of adopted them," said Gary Savely, athletic director of Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.

Among two of the biggest fans of the professional soccer club are Sister Stephanie Sanchez and Sister Veronica Higgins.
 
Sister Stephanie, a longtime McGuinness theology teacher, also has been a regular sports fan for decades at McGuinness athletic events. She is heartily welcomed by Energy management at the fast-paced soccer games played at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.

At first, Energy staff made sure she had a good parking place across the street, according to Savely. But, even that put a bit of a strain on Sister Stephanie. The Energy responded by giving her the best parking place at Taft Stadium, with her name on it.

"That was something to see," she said.
 
Not only that, but they accommodated her in other ways too.

"They will help me with a golf cart," she said. "People with the Energy have been very, very kind."

The Energy's ties with the Carmelite Order started in 2014 when the new team began playing their first games at McGuinnness High School. They made improvements at the stadium.

"It was a win-win for everyone," Savely said. The first two home games at McGuinness were sold out.

Savely was comped with four free tickets. He went to a game, but his schedule soon found him giving away the tickets. Sister Stephanie, and others in the order, found themselves at the game cheering for the home team.

After season No. 1, the Energy moved to Taft Stadium. Working with the Energy, Savely was able to continue the tickets for the nuns.

"They just loved going," he said.

Although the details of the sport were a bit new for Sister Stephanie.
"At first, I wasn't quite sure what to say when I was cheering," she said about the new sport.
 Anyone who has been to an Irish basketball or football game knows she isn't shy about expressing her opinion.
 
Sister Veronica, besides enjoying the action on the field, likes the atmosphere, including the times when Catholic grade school students show up to sing the national anthem.

"It's nice to see the various families," she said. "It's a great sport."
 
And, they said the Funk family, team owners, will usually always come by and say hi.

"We've had a lot of fun going to games," Sister Veronica said. "Sometimes we have conflicts and can't go, but when we can, we really like it."

Steve Gust is a freelance writer for the Sooner Catholic.