March Madness is here, and the New York Times marks the occasion with a profile of Sr. Rose Ann Fleming, SNDdeN, the academic adviser to the men’s basketball team at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Xavier, a Jesuit university in Cincinnati, is entering the N.C.A.A. tournament seeded sixth in the West Region with a 24-8 record. But Sister Rose Ann Fleming is a perfect 77-0. Since she became the academic adviser for Xavier athletics in 1985, every men’s basketball player who has played as a senior has left with a diploma.
“Our alumni over the years have told me that they’re so proud of the graduation rates,” Fleming said over a post-Mass coffee at Starbucks last week during the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in Atlantic City. “They don’t want to hear about Xavier, or any university, using students athletically and then dumping them without a degree.”
Of course, you can’t write about women religious without invoking the usual cliches (she’s not one of those nuns who hit people with rulers — she even smiles!). But for the most part, the article (by John Branch) is a positive look at how religious women are still putting their experience in education to work — and, more broadly, at what ministry can mean for modern sisters. (Compare the paragraph on Sr. Fleming’s daily routine with the limited perspective on apostolic religious life Oprah offered last month.) It’s also an interesting look at how Catholic colleges hold themselves accountable to their mission, even in athletics.