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Wake Up With Purpose: Sister Jean of Loyola University Chicago Shares Wisdom From Her 103 Years

Father Dave welcomes Loyola University Chicago’s Men’s basketball team chaplain Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, just in time for March Madness! The 103-year-old nun first gained national attention in 2018 during the Ramblers’ unexpected journey to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament. She shares stories and lessons from her life in her new memoir, “Wake Up With Purpose: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years.”

They discuss how she still takes a shuttle bus into her office every day, and why it’s important to keep active at her age. Sister Jean says, “[If] you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not much good for anybody else. You just can’t be sitting around, it’s not healthy.” She credits her long life to genetics, since many of her family members lived to their mid-90s. “When [age] 95 came for me, I thought well, pretty soon God will be calling me,” she says. “But I’m still here, so I must have more work to do.”

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Sister Jean explains how her commitment to faith began during childhood. She says, “My mom started us that way. She told my brothers and me, ‘Your dad and I love you very much.’ But she said, ‘God loves you even more. You love us, but you have to love God even more.’” Sister Jean continues, “We had a St. Joseph statue on their dresser. Every time we went out, whether it was to play or go to somebody’s house, we kissed St. Joseph and said, ‘Please bring us home safely.’ And you know what? St. Joseph lost his entire face, because we kissed him so much.” 

She also discovered a love of sports, especially basketball, during high school, and describes how it was vital to both a “complete academic life and spiritual life.” Sister Jean’s call to religious life also began at a young age, and she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary convent right after high school. Years later in 1994, her vocation and passion for sports combined when she became chaplain of Loyola University’s men’s basketball team.

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Father Dave reflects on his time as chaplain of the University of Colorado’s football team. He says, “ I really found that a lot of my preaching on Sunday was [inspired by] lessons that I learned on Saturday with the team. Because key team sports, at their best, is very much what we’re called to live as Christians, that it’s not just about one individual. There is a lot to be gained from that experience of us coming together as one unit.”

Sister Jean responds, “That’s what life is all about. A family has to be a team to make things work. A school, an organization, life – life is a team, we just have to keep working together. Once we stop working together, we’ve lost it. That’s what’s the matter with us today, in society, we’ve lost that team effort that we used to put forth in very strong fashion. I think that COVID is helping us to bring that back again, because we’ve helped people that we never helped before. That’s what we have to do is just say, we’re all one.”