Alumni Profile: Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77

Alumni Profile: Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77

Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77 and current N.Y. Giants Head Coach Brian Daboll at last year’s pre-season training camp.

Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77 and current N.Y. Giants Head Coach Brian Daboll at last year’s pre-season training camp.

Nun, Teacher, Artist, Entertainer... NFL Football Coach?!

I credit being open to God’s presence in every minute of my day and in every person I meet. And I always mention Fairfield University.

— Sister Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77

As a child growing up in Manville, N.J., Sr. Carol Ann Nawracaj OSF, M’77 dreamed of becoming a nun, a teacher, an artist, and an entertainer. “I became everything,” she recently told Fairfield University Magazine during a Zoom interview, “...and then some!”

In 1960, at the age of 14, she entered the congregation of Bernardine Franciscan Sisters. During her postulancy in Reading, Pa., she began dabbling in magic to entertain her fellow postulants and novitiates. The problem was, “none of the tricks worked.”

“My one early success,” she joked, “was making the other sisters disappear... just by announcing that I had a new trick to show them.”

Undeterred, Sr. Carol Ann kept practicing and eventually built up enough of a repertoire of professional tricks to join the Society of American Magicians. She has performed for David Copperfield, on Entertainment Tonight, and at the Newman’s Own holiday party, back in 1998. At the time, she was working at Villa Maria in Stamford, Conn., a school for children with learning disabilities. When asked how the party gig went, she gushed, “I got a standing ovation, a hug from Paul Newman, and a $5,000 donation to our school!”

“I like to say that MAGIC is an acronym for Motivate And Give Inspiration to Children,” said Sr. Carol Ann, noting that she regularly incorporated tricks into her lesson plans during her decades-long career as an educator, and continues to perform magic at charitable events and public speaking appearances (and during Zoom interviews, for the record).

Sr. Carol Ann professed her perpetual vows in 1970, and graduated from Alvernia College the following year with a BA in elementary education. She spent the summer of 1974 on Fairfield University’s campus, taking classes toward her master’s degree in special education.

As luck would have it, the New York Giants football team was holding their preseason summer training camp at Fairfield that year. Sr. Carol Ann, a gifted artist, volunteered to create hand-lettered banners to welcome them.

The only thing she knew about football at the time “was that it was a sport.” Still, when Giants owner Wellington Mara and then-Head Coach Bill Arnsparger thanked her personally for the signs and invited her to attend practices, Sr. Carol Ann’s curiosity was sparked. By the end of the summer, she had become a fixture on the sidelines, a student of the gridiron, and a die-hard Giants fan.

Her friendship with Giants players and coaches continued and in 1981, someone tipped Sr. Carol Ann off that the team was looking for a new defensive coordinator. For fun, she applied, listing her current employer as “the Good Lord.”

Ray Perkins, coach at the time, named her an honorary assistant coach, noting in his appointment letter that he took it as a “heavenly premonition” that Sr. Carol Ann had only ever been present at “home games in which the Giants have been victorious.” That season – for the first time in 18 years – the Giants made it to the playoffs.

Sr. Carol Ann has used magic tricks in her motivational presentations to the team; she even performed at Lawrence Taylor’s Hall of Fame induction. She’s used her artistic talents to design the Giant’s Christmas cards and to create one-ofa- kind gifts and mailings to inspire and congratulate players. Her special “playbook” contains Giants-themed word puzzles; her illustrated “pray book” cites scripture passages that relate to game situations. Each year, she presents the team with a homemade scrapbook of news clippings.

The Giants have played in five Super Bowls, and have won four. Their honorary coach has been a guest of the team at all of them. After winning their first – Super Bowl XXI in 1986 – both Phil Simms and Sr. Carol Ann were named MVP: “He was the most valuable player and I was the most valuable prayer.

Sr. Carol Ann regrets bringing a friend with no football literacy to the only loss. “I didn’t pray enough at that one,” she said, “because I spent the whole time talking and explaining the game.”

Her coaching contract has been renewed by every new head coach, most recently Brian Daboll. Quick to point out that she is “not a recruiter – that’s God’s job and I’m not taking it away,” Sr. Carol Ann also currently serves as vocation director and aspirant director for the Bernardine Franciscan congregation.

When sharing her remarkable vocation story, young people often ask how it all began. “I credit being open to God’s presence in every minute of my day and in every person I meet,” she said. “And I always mention Fairfield University.” “I tell them that I didn’t plan any of it, it just happened...sometimes God really surprises me.”

Other Articles in the Summer 2023 Issue

Letter from the President

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Leaders in Education

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Hands On

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Pitch Perfect

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Engineers in Motion

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Soldier In Art

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Alumni Profile: Joe DeCamara ’00

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Donor Profile: StagMates: Robert ’08, MS’09 and Shelby (Mayor ’09, MS’10) Morton

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