Sunday morning quarterbacks

Sunday, January 14, 2007
Sister Paul, front left, held a "Go Saints" sign Friday as she led displaced people from New Orleans in singing "When the Saints Go Marching In" at the Little Sisters of the Poor residence in Mobile, Ala., in support of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team. The New Orleans Saints played the Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans in an NFC football playoff game Saturday, winning 27-24. (G.M. ANDREWS ~ Associated Press)

NEW ORLEANS -- For years it was the most shopworn of jokes about the New Orleans Saints: They couldn't even beat the Little Sisters of the Poor.

But now the Saints are in the playoffs, and the nuns consider themselves part of the team that will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Superdome on Saturday night. It's a pretty potent combination, Sister Paul believes.

Maybe so. The Saints won the game 27-24.

"Who else but the Saints would the Little Sisters of the Poor support?" she said, speaking of the venerable order, which was founded in France and has a long history in New Orleans. "You can say the order is behind the Saints 150 percent."

Sister Paul was the mother superior for the order's Mary Joseph Residence For the Elderly in New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina. The 80 residents were unable to return after the storm because emergency personnel had commandeered their building. So they moved out to the order's other 30 facilities.

Paul, four other nuns and 30 of her charges ended up at Sacred Heart Residence for the Elderly in Mobile, Ala.

"We are total fanatics," Paul said in a telephone interview. "We can't be in New Orleans, but we'll be glued to the set. We're having a box-supper so we can eat in front of the television."

The New Orleans residents being cared for by the nuns range in age from 82 to 104, and Paul acknowledges that bets are being made around the home.

"It isn't all that much," said resident Andree Briant, 97. "There aren't many people that will bet against the Saints here."

Briant, born and raised in New Orleans, began attending Saints games when the franchise was first established in 1967.

"I haven't missed a lot of the games over the years," she said. "But I don't think I've ever been this excited."

Another resident, Estelle Falgouft, 82, had season tickets for 10 years, and always hoped to see the team in the Super Bowl. Now she believes she will.

"I keep up with them every ay," Falgouft said. "It's a good team now, not like those old teams. I think the Saints will win by two or three touchdowns."

Falgouft was looking forward to a wild Saturday night.

"We're going to have it on the big screen," she said. "It'll be chaos, bedlam, wonderful."

The nuns have private prayer throughout the day, divine office five times a day and Mass daily, Paul said. Prayers during those times are not formally devoted to the New Orleans Saints, but there's still a lot of other praying for them going on among the residents.

"I'm a thorough believer in prayers," Briant said. "And we're praying for a win. It's going to be wonderful, it's going to be a miracle, kid."

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