Sister Jean, 103, shares her life purpose

Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the Loyola University men’s basketball team chaplain, became an international sensation during the 2018 NCAA tournament while cheering on the Ramblers. It was even said that her NCAA press conference had more reporters in attendance than Tom Brady’s at the Super Bowl.

Now at 103 years old she doesn’t travel but attends all the home games. She watches the games from the tunnel where the players enter The Joseph J. Gentile Arena, she said, so that she doesn’t get hit with the ball.

“I don’t talk to anybody during the game is going on,” Sister Jean said while sitting in her spot in the arena. “I’m too intense upon watching those young men get that ball into that basket.”

Before practice in late January senior player, Tom Welch, said that her presence is felt every day. “It makes the players just have a little extra boost of confidence and momentum going into games, going into practice, even.”

Sister Jean is now using her platform to teach life lessons through her upcoming book “Wake Up with Purpose: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years.” The memoir will be published on February 28.

Her dream of being a teacher and a sister in the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary began when she was just eight years old, inspired by her third-grade teacher. “We had a wonderful sister and she told us that we were not too young to be thinking about what we wanted to do when we grew up,” said Sister Jean. “So I used to say, Please God, tell me what you want me to do, but tell me you want me to be a BVM sister.”

In her over 80 years of service, Sister Jean has focused on the youth, teaching in Catholic schools in Chicago and Southern California.

In the 60s, she was transferred to postsecondary education at Mundelein College, which joined with Loyola University in 1991.

“Everyone loves Sister Jean,” said Loyola junior, Catharina Baeten. “She represents, like, our values and like, she’s the embodiment of compassion. You know? That’s how I like to think about her.”

Every day Sister Jean makes a point to talk with current and incoming students to tell them about Loyola and ask them about their dreams.

“I just would like to say that they should be happy people. That’s what I want them to be, happy people. And just to love of God and knowing that God loves them,” she said.

Throughout her time as an educator, Sister Jean has put an emphasis on sports, because she feels they help develop life skills like faith and purpose.

“I would like to see them go to the NCAA again,” she said of the Ramblers. “I’d like to see that happen because it means so much to those young people.”

Allison Guth, the women’s basketball coach, calls Sister Jean a legend.

“You talk about being there at 103, it’s because it’s a passion for her. It’s about love,” said Guth. “And I think when you do something for your life that you’re committed with, with love and integrity. Um, people love to be around people like that. So I think they should be telling stories about her forever.”


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