Houston's 'Rally Nuns' pitch vocations at World Series

November 9, 2021

Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province watch Game 2 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves on Oct. 27. Two
Dominican sisters threw out the ceremonial first pitch in the American League Championship Series and the World Series. (Photo courtesy of Father Michael earthman/St. Mary’s Seminary)

HOUSTON — There might have been angels in the outfield, but in the Space City, the Houston Astros had Dominicans in the stands. And in a sea of orange and blue, their bright white Dominican habits and black veils stood out.

And it wasn’t just Dominicans, but consecrated (and to be consecrated) men and women religious from multiple congregations turned out for several games of the World Series and the American League Championship in Houston in late October.

But it was the Dominican Sisters of Mary Immaculate Province, a growing Vietnamese consecrated women’s religious congregation located in Houston, who were dubbed the “Rally Nuns” and became a viral sensation when they filled a prominent section of Minute Maid Park.

The sisters, alongside a group of priests, seminarians and other women religious, witnessed the Astros take on the Atlanta Braves after the hometown team beat the Boston Red Sox to punch their ticket to the World Series.

Despite the unfortunate outcome of the World Series, vocations and faith moved into the national spotlight, thanks to Houston legend Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and the sisters’ engaging spirit.

Two sisters stepped up to the pitcher’s mound and threw the ceremonial first pitch for two games at Minute Maid Park.

First, Sister Mary Catherine Do, OP, who previously taught at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School in Houston and now teaches in Shiner, Texas, threw the first pitch of Game 6 of the ALCS.

Though she isn’t the first sister to go viral for her throw — that goes to fellow Dominican Sister Mary Jo Sobieck, OP — Sister Mary Catherine stepped into the limelight to remind the Astros that “this is our time!”

Wearing a custom jersey with “RALLY NUNS” declared on the back (it also matched her white habit perfectly), Sister Mary Catherine took to the field, her black Rosary beads swinging with each jovial step.

Crossing near home plate, she pointed a finger heavenward. A few long steps shy of the pitcher’s mound, she turned around and faced the catcher and, after a brief pause (maybe a quick Memorare?), she gave the ball some heat for a successful floating first pitch.

Then, in a quick sequence that only a consecrated religious woman could do, Sister Mary Catherine raised her glove and pitching arm in celebration, pointed to her wrist in a tongue-in-cheek reference to Astros’ shortstop Carlos Correa’s “It’s Time” move, flipped her veil over her shoulder, then pointed at her congregation in the stands behind her near where Tal’s Hill once stood.

Finally pointing again heavenward, as the crowds cheered, she slowly made her way down the baseline to greet Orbit the Astros mascot as Red Sox and Astros staff slowly filled their dugouts.

Sister Mary Catherine’s congregation is well-known throughout the Archdiocese, active in many catechetical roles and teaching positions at parishes and Catholic schools in the region. Sister Mary Catherine teaches at St. Paul Catholic High School in Shiner about two hours from the downtown Houston stadium.

Explaining her post-pitch watch-pointing celebration move, Sister Mary Catherine told the Houston Chronicle that she “did that, because this is the Astros time, this is our time, this is it.”

Also wearing the ‘“RALLY NUNS” jersey, Sister Mary Augustine Pham, OP, was the Dominicans’ closing pitcher.

She took their new Rally Nuns name to heart when she threw the first pitch at Game 6 of the World Series, hoping to inspire the crowd and the hometown team before the do-or-die game for the Astros, who were fighting a losing deficit.

Just as Sister Mary Catherine featured a little showmanship, Sister Mary Augustine flashed a great smile and accented her mound visit with her version of the “Tucker Stretch,” made popular by Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker.

She was joined by Sister Mary Catherine and McIngvale, and even stepped onto the pitcher’s mound before inching closer to home plate. With a deft throw, Sister Mary Catherine threw to Astros’ outfielder Chas McCormick.

Both sisters join an elite list of Galveston-Houston Catholics who have taken to the mound, including Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza and a number of Catholic school teachers and superintendents.

McIngvale gifted tickets to both Game 1 and Game 6 of the ALCS, as well as the three home games of the World Series. A longtime parishioner of Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Boulevard in Houston, the Gallery Furniture maven has been an outspoken advocate for Catholic education and his faith.

He has supported many Catholic schools and the University of St. Thomas, and credited his faith for his actions during Hurricanes Harvey, Katrina and Houston’s other weather storms.

The World Series isn’t the first collaboration between McIngvale and the Dominicans. He donated mattresses to the congregation when they opened a new convent.

The Vietnamese Dominicans also have a small classroom at McIngvale’s Gallery Furniture store in Houston, according to KPRC. There, once a week, a sister visits with young children, teaching children’s lessons and sharing Bible stories.

Dominicans, founded by St. Dominic in the 13th century in France, are known as the Order of Preachers, a charism well-known by many in the Church. Dominicans are found throughout the Archdiocese, teaching in schools and parish communities, as well as leading social justice efforts.

“Our motto is to praise, bless and preach the good news,” Sister Maria Theresa Nguyen, provincial superior, said to the Chronicle.

Fellow Dominican Sister Maria Goretti Thuy Nguyen, associate director with the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Office of Evangelization and Catechesis, told the Chronicle that she prays for the players and the fans.

“We show up and play hard; hopefully we also pray hard in our daily lives,” she said. “This is not about who wins or loses. It’s about fun and coming together as a big family.”

Like other teachers and sisters, they run alongside their students at the annual Steps for Students 5K Race and Walk, which is set for Feb. 12, 2022.

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch,” Sister Mary Catherine told ABC 13. “This is not just a regular game. A playoff game!”

A number of Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation, who teach at Frassati Catholic High School, were also at Game 6 to root for the Astros. Clergy, faculty and seminarians from St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston also attended the games.

Across from Minute Maid Park, Annunciation Catholic Church parishioners celebrated the Astros World Series run alongside Father Paul Felix. He was often seen outside the church, greeting fans as they streamed past the historic church. A large sign welcomed visitors, offering a moment of quiet before the raucousness of a baseball game.

These communities join the faithful Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, the congregation that runs Incarnate Word Academy across the street from Minute Maid and next to Annunciation Catholic Church.

The sisters are also well-known for their devotion and support of the Astros. Sister Damien Kuhn, CVI, had a permanent season ticket for seat 31 in row 35 of Section 116.

Though she died in 2010 at age 90, Sister Kuhn is a ally sister in heaven, cheering for the Astros, alongside the Dominican Sisters down below in Minute Maid Park, who wave their rally towels with their Rosary beads swaying at the hip, ready for the next Hail Mary. †