Now at age101, the school chaplain hopes she can go to Indiana to see her beloved Ramblers to an NCAA Championship.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament brackets are set, and Loyola University Chicago is back in the “Big Dance.”
We’re sure the Ramblers’ success is due, in no small part, to the support of Sister Jean.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt became a household name in 2018 when the Cinderella-story Loyola Chicago team made it all the way to the Final Four. As school chaplain, she has lead pre-game prayers since 1994, and became a familiar sight on national TV, cheering on her team from the sidelines as they advanced through March Madness.
Now, at age 101, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sister Jean, wants to be there to help push her team to victory. She’s anxiously waiting to hear from school administrators, to see if she can attend the Ramblers first round game against Georgia Tech in Indiana.
“I was like that old woman in the Gospels who went to the judge so many times, the judge finally said, ‘Let’s let her do what she wants,’ ” Sister Jean told the Chicago Tribune.
Like the poor widow in the Luke 18:1-8, Sister Jean is persistent.
“I have not lost hope in going,” she said. “I want to go so badly.”
Because of the pandemic, the NCAA has limited each team to official travel parties of 34 people. The fans at Lucas Oil Stadium will also be limited to 25% of capacity.
This is the first year that Sister Jean hasn’t been able to attend any games. She’s spent the last year locked down in her senior independent living apartment in downtown Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune report, until last Thursday, she hadn’t had a visitor since October.
She’s been keeping busy, though, with physical therapy, and with her work in campus ministry. For students who are facing emotional and academic issues during this stressful time, she is only a phone call away.
“Different people have different reactions to COVID,” she said. “It’s going to be very difficult. I think these scars of COVID are going to stay for a long time,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
Sister Jean hasn’t been completely idle as far as the basketball season goes either. During the MVC Tournament, she would virtually participate in a prayer during the team’s pre-game huddle. Before each game she would receive a call to address the team.
The Chicago-Tribune reported:
“I started out, ‘Hi, Ramblers. Are we ready?’ ” she said. “And they all say, ‘Yes, Sister Jean! We’re ready!’ ” She advised them of opponents to focus on and delivered some final pregame tips before moving into prayer. She asked players to extend their hands toward the phone and asked God to bless them, “so that you don’t lose the ball in turnovers, so you don’t use your hands to make fouls.”
Winning that tournament earned the Ramblers a spot in the NCAAs. Now, Fully vaccinated and feeling fine, Sister Jean is hoping she can be there to help take her team to the next level. We can’t help but hope she gets her wish!