Nun finds higher calling on the football field

DULUTH, Minn. -- High on a bluff above Lake Superior lies the College of St. Scholastica and the convent of Benedictine nuns who founded the school back in 1912.

It's where 70 sisters are living out their special vocation in the time-honored traditions of their faith.

All except one of them, that is.

Sister Lisa Maurer is an assistant football coach at St. Scholastica -- and please try to stifle that chuckle. The Saints were 10-1 last year.

"I didn't set out to be a football coach," Sister Lisa told CBS News. "I mean, I came here to be a sister -- to be a nun. I came here to answer my vocational call."

She had coached at the high school level before becoming a nun. But even after taking her vows in 2012, the call of sports was strong.

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Sister Lisa Maurer is an assistant football coach at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota.

CBS News

"There was a football team practicing right out my backyard, so I would just wander out there, maybe say the rosary, walk around practice 'cause I wanted to hear the whistles," she said.

Head coach Kurt Ramler got to know her.

"And I was like, 'Wow! Here's an incredibly intelligent, passionate person that knows her football,'" Ramler said. "'I wonder if she could help the team in other ways.'"

So Ramler offered her a job on his staff.

"So when all of a sudden this gift was given to me, I didn't -- I was like, 'I want to do it but I probably shouldn't do it because I am a sister,'" she said.

Does has a nun on the sidelines require some sort of adjustment by Ramler?

"Well, I don't swear as much as most football coaches, I guess," he responded.

On game days she hands out the prayer she's written for the team -- whose winning record suggests the prayers are effective.

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Sister Lisa Maurer prays with St. Scholastica players before a game.
CBS News

She works with the practice squad and the kickers, including freshman Donovan Blatz, who talks with Sister Lisa about more than just football.

"Oh yeah. All the time," Blatz said. "She always asks about my girlfriend, all of my family, see how they're doing. Just we, we communicate. Just not about football all the time, which is nice."

Her rapport with the young men is clear.

"It's not just about football. It's about teamwork," Sister Lisa said. "It's about, you know, doing the best. It's about having pride in who we are, looking out for one another. I give that to them."

She added, "Isn't that awesome that I get to do -- I get to pray and be a football coach. That's pretty cool."

And she's pretty good at both.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.