Every single vocation story is different, but Sr. Rita Clare (Anne) Yoches is probably one of the more unusual.
Sr. Rita Clare, who this month will profess final vows with the Franciscan Sisters T.O.R. of Penance of the Sorrowful Mother, was a four-time national champion professional football player prior to entering the convent.
Yes, that’s American football. (She was a fullback.) Nowadays, the only football Yoches is playing is the annual two-hand touch game she organizes with the 38 T.O.R. sisters she lives with in Toronto, Ohio.
Although she was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools, Yoches said she never onceconsidered becoming a nun. Her family attended Mass each Sunday, but that was about it in terms of her faith life. A talented athlete, Yoches earned a full basketball scholarship to the University of Detroit-Mercy, where she played for four years.
After college, she began her football career in 2003 after a successful tryout with the Detroit Demolition, a now-defunct women’s professional team. She left the team in 2006, and in March of 2007, the former self-described party girl experienced a calling to enter religious life. She ended her relationship with her boyfriend, and entered the Franciscans shortly after.
“(I) loved to stay out as late as could on Friday and Saturday nights, but always went to Mass on Sundays. But I never really listened to what God was saying,” said Yoches in a video about her conversion.
One Sunday, after a particularly moving homily, Yoches realized that she needed to drastically change her lifestyle.
“And I was like, that’s me. I’m sick and dying on the inside. So that convinced me to go to Confession for the first time in a long time.” Her priest provided her with guidance about reading scripture every day, and she began attending Eucharistic Adoration.
It was during Eucharistic Adoration that she felt truly embraced by God, and really began to get a sense of His plan for her life.
“And then I felt God the Father just wrap his arms around me and give me a hug, and just pulled me onto his chest like only a father can hug a daughter,” she said.
“And my life was forever changed. I just wanted more and more of Jesus.”
She says while her family was supportive of her decision to enter the convent, her friends were surprised, as she had largely kept her faith life private.
“People were very surprised that this was really who and what I wanted to do and be,” she told the Detroit Free Press.
Sr. Rita Clare will profess final vows on June 30.