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Loyola-Chicago's run to the Elite Eight includes spiritual guidance from 98-year-old team chaplain

If you’ve been watching Loyola-Chicago’s Cinderella run through the NCAA Tournament the past eight days, you’ll notice that their team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, is becoming as popular, if not more popular than the players on the team.

On Thursday night, the Ramblers beat Nevada 69-68 after a clutch three-point shot by Marques Townes with 6.3 seconds remaining secured the victory for Loyola and sent them to the Elite Eight.

Sister Jean has become a media darling over the last week as she’s watched her club go further than it’s been in more than 50 years (1963). The 98-year-old has become an instant celebrity. She’s been seen and heard all over national television and radio the past week including ABC’s Good Morning America, multiple shows on ESPN including SportsCenter and the Golic and Wingo radio show, as well as features in the New York Times and USA Today.

Loyola-Chicago has played three games in the NCAA Tournament thus far as the 11-seed in the south region and has won all three by a combined total of four points. This team seems to thrive in crunch time and is now on the verge of the Final Four.

“I’m happy for us, for my community, for Loyola, for the city of Chicago and for the world because we have people watching us all over the world,” Sister Jean said postgame to ESPN. “The viewing numbers on every channel should go up and I’m sure it will.”

Sister Jean has been a member of the of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin (BVM) for 81 years. She became the team chaplain for the men’s basketball team in 1996 at the age of 76. According to the Loyola-Chicago website, Sister Jean can often be seen at Rambler home games working the crowd, encouraging school spirit and leading players in prayer before each game.

“She’s just a blessing,” Loyola-Chicago coach Porter Moser said to CBS. “The way she prays for us. The way she smiles. When you walk in and see her there, you just feel good.”

According to the New York Times, Sister Jean is up every morning at 6 a.m. for prayer and meditation.

Sister Jean wakes before dawn, an hour earlier than usual, and immediately spends time in her daily prayer and meditation. She routinely, and almost ironically this week, asks God for a peaceful day. She then meditates on a gospel story; lately, her choices have centered on reminders of God’s love for his children. 

On Saturday, Loyola-Chicago will face Kansas State with a trip to college basketball’s Final Four on the line. Sister Jean will be praying and cheering her team on, but no matter what happens, she knows that our Heavenly Father doesn’t change.

“Whether we win or lose,” she said to the New York Times, “God is still with us.”

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