Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

The InterVIEW

‘Golfing nun’ uses God-given talent to help

Michael Cahill

A regular feature of The Catholic New World, The InterVIEW is an in-depth conversation with a person whose words, actions or ideas affect today's Catholic. It may be affirming of faith or confrontational. But it will always be stimulating.

When it comes to golf outings, Sister Maryann Dosen of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King is the one to beat. Sister Maryann offers her services in a “Beat the Nun” at two local golf outings this year, one for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and one for her congregation’s high school, Mount Assisi Academy, and Alvernia Manor, an assisted-living facility for the elderly.

The contests offer Sister Maryann, 51, a chance to play golf, a game she loves, and to draw attention to the causes she supports. Sister Maryann finished chemotherapy in January after being diagnosed with breast cancer last year. Not only did she not let that stop her this year, she was planning to head off to a golf outing she plays in with her family every year the day after the Catholic Charities outing. It was to be the first time this season she played 18 straight holes.

Catholic New World: How does the “Beat the Nun” contest actually work?

Sister Maryann Dosen: It’s a closest-tothe- pin contest. I take a shot with every foursome, and they have to try to get closer to the pin than I am. For Catholic Charities, it’s always the same hole: Dubsdread No. 2.

CNW: How many of them beat you, and what do they get besides bragging rights?

SMD: Usually about 20 percent can get it closer.

Bragging rights is a big thing for them—last year, they got towels that said “I beat the nun.” Not that many do it.

Most of them get up there and they really want to do it and they try so hard and then they can’t. And then they can’t do their favorite part of the game, the swearing. Well, maybe one or two swear. Otherwise they’re very good. And those one or two are quite apologetic.

CNW: When did this start?

SMD: Thirteen years ago this past May. I did this for the golf outing for our high school and assisted living center. Mark McCollum and Mike Sheehan came to it—one of them had a niece at our high school. After a while, they came to my door and said, “Sister, can you help us with our golf outing?”

I only do this for our high school and for Alvernia Manor and for Catholic Charities. If I took in all the offers I have, I’d be golfing every day, but there are so many good causes, and I have to be able to do my job. I am the provincial treasurer for the sisters.

CNW: How did you get to be such a good golfer?

SMD: I’ve been golfing since I was 4. My dad taught me. I used to hit out in the back yard with the plastic balls and breaking windows and hitting the siding on the garage …

When we were planning our first golf outing, I was on the committee because I was the one who golfed. We knew we had to have some kind of a contest or something, and we couldn’t think what we could do. So they asked me, “How good are you?” and I said, “Fair to middling.” So they thought we could do this closest to the pin thing, but they didn’t know what to call it. They came up with “Beat the Nun” and we were dying because we didn’t know how the other sisters would take it. They’ve taken it very well.

CNW: Were you surprised at the reaction from the public?

SMD:Well, the first golf outing, it was a lot of my family and friends and neighbors, so we just had a riotous time, laughing and teasing each other and egging each other on. Then we did it with Catholic Charities, with complete strangers, and it was just the same.

CNW: Does always shooting on the same hole give you an advantage?

SMD: Some people think it does, some people think it doesn’t. A lot of people underestimate me. Some people make the mistake of giving me a mulligan—a chance to shoot again. I’m devastating then.

CNW: Do you ever think about how this relates to your religious mission, or is it purely fun?

SMD: It’s definitely fun. But because of all the publicity we get—we’ve been on CNN, I know we’ve made the Wall Street Journal, it’s played big—it’s sort of like Henry Nouwen’s “Clown of Rome,” who is always pointing in the right direction. We are playing golf, but the point is there is a need for single-sex Catholic education and for care of the aged. With Catholic Charities, it doesn’t matter where you live within the Archdiocese of Chicago, there are families who are suffering, who are on the brink of homelessness, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. It’s not about me, it’s about this cause. Franciscan-wise, it’s making people aware of the plight of the poor.

God gives us many different gifts and talents, and we’ve got to take what he gives us. I can hit the ball straight and long.