by Kara Hansen
For 94 years, these two sisters have done nearly everything together.
As teenagers, they became nuns together, joining the same religious order within two years of each other.
As adults, they combined to spend nearly 80 years educating children.
And together, they have witnessed firsthand some of the greatest changes the Catholic Church and their own religious order have ever undergone.
The two haven’t let such weighty matters overshadow the really important things in life, however.
These two “super-fans,” 94-year-old Sister Lorene and 95-year-old Sister Gervase Judge, are the ideal sports fans. Not easily discouraged, unfailingly upbeat, the two Benedictines root for their Benedictine College Ravens through good times and bad.
It doesn’t hurt that the nonagenarians share a “forever young” attitude that has them sassing reporters as readily as football coaches.
When asked how old she was, for example, Sister Gervase didn’t hesitate.
“I’m 25,” she quipped, with a perfectly straight face.
The sisters were passionate about their team long before the BC coach discovered that his most loyal fan base resided in a monastery.
But when head football coach Larry Wilcox did learn that the two sisters were especially fond of his team, he was intrigued.
“We heard that Sister Lorene and Sister Gervase were big fans of BC football,” said Wilcox, “and listened to our games on the radio religiously.”
So Coach Wilcox, who had previously never met the two women, struck up a friendship with them that has only deepened in the decade he has known them. He visits them regularly at the monastery and attended each of their 75th anniversary jubilee celebrations.
“They are amazing people with a lifetime of experiences,” explained the coach. “The two have been professed for over 75 years now and are still going strong and sharp. They are just neat, fun people who light up your day.”
The admiration is mutual.
“We listen to his post-game talks, and I’ve never once heard him belittle or run down a player,” said Sister Gervase. “He always appreciates what the kids do.”
Wilcox appreciates what the Judge sisters do as well.
“They get a little excited if things are going well — or if they aren’t going well for the team,” said Wilcox.
“They’ve even been known to throw some holy water on the radio,” he said with a laugh. “It has probably helped us out more than a few times over the years.”
After the game, the nuns often send a card congratulating the team on its hard work and letting the players know how much they enjoyed the game.
Although it started as a way for the two sisters to let the players know they were appreciated and someone was praying for them, it has now become part of the Raven tradition.
“We hang up the cards in the locker room so our guys know these two Sisters care about them and are praying for them,” said Wilcox.
The team has been over to see the Sisters several times and, at the coaching staff’s suggestion, the two even posed in team apparel for a football poster two years ago.
But in spite of — or perhaps because of — their status as honorary mascots of the team — Sister Lorene and Sister Gervase often weigh in with advice for the coach.
“They like to put their two cents in, just like everyone else,” said Wilcox, “but they are nothing but positive.
“Mostly they offer words of encouragement, and tell us to work hard, stay committed, and that it doesn’t hurt to say a prayer once in awhile.”
Out of a desire to honor the Sisters’ loyalty and support in some way, Wilcox and his team planted two trees near Raven Stadium, complete with plaques, each bearing the name of one of the Sisters. He hopes that — and a special recognition at BC’s homecoming game on Oct. 20 — will be a fitting tribute to the two women who have stayed so rooted in their commitment as Benedictine football fans.
“It will be an acknowledgment of how special they are to us,” said Wilcox.
Sister Lorene and Sister Gervase said they never expected the honor, but that they hope the two trees will stand together for many years — just as they have.
“I hope they planted a big, strong tree,” said Sister Gervase, grinning. “I want it to be around for awhile.”