On Saturday night, a curious thing happened. A 98-year-old nun was the number one trending topic on Twitter. Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt BVM, the chaplain of the Loyola Chicago men’s basketball team since 1994, has captured the attention of the nation.
Maybe this is just part of the magic of the tournament. Maybe I’m a little biased too.
I’m a proud alum of Loyola Chicago (‘13), and I met Sister Jean on my very first day of class. I would routinely talk with her most days, if only for a few minutes, nearly every day of my four years there.
The NCAA Tournament is always full of stories. But something is a little different about this phenomenon. What we have here isn’t a cinderella team, a star player doing something spectacular, or even a memorable coach. We have the chaplain to the team. And, as much as it brings me great joy that the world gets to know Sister Jean, I’m left wondering why she has become so popular – so popular to even attract the attention of former President Barack Obama.
Congrats to @LoyolaChicago and Sister Jean for a last-second upset – I had faith in my pick!
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) March 15, 2018
Perhaps it is because she is different than anything the tournament usually sees. When was the last time we saw a team chaplain on television? Let alone one who gives scouting reports? Beloved by the team, she is unafraid to give advice and encouragement to the players, rooted in experience of the game.
For those who want to dismiss her as a novelty, just remember that Sister Jean has been filling this role for 24 years. That is commitment.
And I think this is one of Sister Jean’s more endearing aspects. After a fall in November, she has come back to the home games in a wheelchair and traveled to watch the team in the first two rounds of the tournament last week. She takes this role seriously and is the team’s greatest fan.
We can all learn something from her example. The story of a nun who keeps showing up year after year, full of love and encouragement for the team, even though some rather lean years, 1 is inspirational. Stories of fidelity like this fill us with hope and remind us of the best that we can be.
It’s no wonder that she has captured the hearts of so many in this last week.
Tonight, Loyola Chicago plays Nevada in the Sweet Sixteen. Regardless of what happens in this game, it has been a tremendous season for Loyola Chicago. But, of course, I know who I’m pulling for tonight. Go Ramblers!
The cover photo is featured courtesy of Lukas Keapproth of Loyola University Chicago.
- For example, my junior year (2011-2012), the Ramblers finished 7-21, 1-16 in the Horizon League ↩