Catholic Vancouver April 22, 2015

Coach finds God's grace helps her live in obedience

By Agnieszka Ruck

Grade 6 Assumption Eagles stand with their basketball coach, Sister Mary Sabina Demuth, OP, at Our Lady of the Assumption School in Port Coquitlam. (Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

PORT COQUITLAM—The coach of the Assumption Eagles wears a full-length white habit as she emboldens Grade 6 girls to slam-dunk their way to victory.

"I get looks when we go into different school gyms," laughed Sister Mary Sabina Demuth, OP, basketball coach and Grade 5 teacher at Our Lady of the Assumption School.

"Then they see me coaching and they think it's really weird."

Sister Demuth first landed in Port Coquitlam four years ago. She lives in a convent near the elementary school with three other sisters.

"I had no intention of becoming a teacher," before joining the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville. "My whole family was full of teachers and I was actually insulted as a child when a teacher told me I would make a good teacher one day."

Sister Demuth grew up in Colorado and played basketball in high school. She moved to Texas to study theology, thinking she'd serve the Church as a youth minister or as a diocesan employee.

Two years into her undergraduate degree she began giving serious thought to marriage and the religious life. "Once I started discerning and thinking about it, I went back and read journals from when I was a teenager, and every once in a while I'd actually have a little question: 'Is God calling me to be a nun?'"

Sister Demuth had a boyfriend at the time and seriously debated the two life-long commitments in her mind. She chose to pursue marriage and told her spiritual director.

"He asked me: why would you think you're called to religious life?" Sister Demuth, annoyed, said she was there to talk about a calling to wedded life. He persisted.

"When I'm praying, when I'm in adoration, when I'm in Mass, I really feel the Lord calling me," she answered. At that moment, "I came to the realization that that was the Lord telling me that that's what He wanted with my life."

She was surprised to feel at peace when she revealed it to her boyfriend. After graduation, she entered the Dominican convent in Nashville, Tenn.,in 2001.

Our Lord, "through different spiritual directors and through prayer, made it clear that my heart wasn't going to be satisfied with anything less than Him."

Every year Sister Demuth receives her assignment for the next 12 months from her superior. She taught in Colorado and Rhode Island elementary schools for six years before being sent to Port Coquitlam.

St. Dominic "always said we have to be available to go wherever the Lord wants us, when the Lord wants us," she said.

"While on a natural level, you love the people wherever you are and you love the place, you also know that God's grace is tied to the assignment that you're given."

At Our Lady of the Assumption, Sister Demuth teaches Grade 5 and some religion classes, coaches basketball and track and field, and leads retreats for parents.

"She's changed our religion program," said principal Rosaleen Heffernan, who is thrilled to have a sister as part of the school's tight-knit staff. The school built strong ties with the Dominicans in Nashville after a retreat there last year.

"For me, growing up, sisters weren't very visible," she said. With Sister Demuth walking the halls in a black veil and dressed in white, "the kids see the idea, vocationally, that this is an option."

Heffernan also praised the sister's joy, reverence, and deep knowledge of Church doctrine. "She is a reference for us."

Outside school, Sister Demuth leads a discernment group for young women called Vocations in Progress. She has embraced becoming a sister and a teacher for the Lord.

"When I gave the Lord permission to do whatever, He gave me the grace to love every minute of it."