LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
When Annie Yoches was growing up, her world revolved around sports - basketball, soccer, even football. She played it all. She eventually made it to the big leagues on the offensive line of the Detroit Demolition, the city's now-defunct professional women's football team. But after four years on the team, Yoches found another calling. A week ago, she changed her name and changed her life. Surrounded by family and friends, Sister Rita Clare made her final vows to God. She entered the Franciscan order. She joins us now from the Irish Hills in Michigan. Thank you for being here.
RITA CLARE YOCHES: You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
WERTHEIMER: So congratulations, Sister Rita. How are you feeling about what you have just done?
YOCHES: Thank you. Oh, it was the best day of my life - feel so good, feel so secure in my identity and who I am. And yeah, it was just so happy to celebrate with all my friends and family, surrendering everything, which feels very freeing.
WERTHEIMER: Playing sports was a huge part of your childhood. Were you also interested in the church at that point?
YOCHES: I mean, sports were pretty much my God. I mean, it was my idol, and it was what I did with all of my time. I went to church every Sunday, but I really only talked to God when I needed his help and asked for him to, you know, help us win in the basketball game. When a teammate was at the free throw line, I would say a quick prayer.
WERTHEIMER: (Laughter) Yeah. I think lots of people still do that.
YOCHES: Yeah (laughter).
WERTHEIMER: So what was life like playing pro football?
YOCHES: It was it was so fun and amazing. The girls I met on the football team I would have never been friends with if it wasn't for football because we came from all different backgrounds and all different places. And, you know, it's these elite athletes from all different sports coming together to play football, and we really just came together to play it because we had heard men talk about how awesome this sport was but never had a chance to experience it ourselves.
WERTHEIMER: Well, so you have a calling, you've said, so where did that come from? When did that come?
YOCHES: I was actually in Italy on a pilgrimage. And I was looking at these nuns walking into the church, and I heard a voice in my heart say you should do this. You could do this. And I said to God, do what? Become a nun? Are you crazy? Like, I didn't know people still did that. I didn't know anyone who had done that. And I was like, I think you have the wrong person. Like, do you know who I am and what I just did last night? Like - but the problem was it never went away. I tried to run away from it. There was just this tugging on my heart every night before I went to bed. You have a calling. You have a vocation. And so, yeah, that's when it started.
WERTHEIMER: So do you think that what you did playing football - what position did you play?
YOCHES: I played fullback, so I stood behind the quarterback and hit people the whole game.
WERTHEIMER: Do you think that that experience will in any way inform your life as a Franciscan nun?
YOCHES: Yeah, most definitely. I mean, everything that we experience in our life forms us into who we are, and the Lord uses everything, whether it was good or bad, for his good. And so it has made me definitely considerate of others, a team player, know how to work hard and how to work with others and how to be disciplined and just really how to fight, fight for what you are fighting for and fighting for the good.
WERTHEIMER: Sister Rita Clare Yoches of Michigan, thank you very much for talking to us.
YOCHES: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.