By Nancy Armour |
This NCAA tournament has given us a gift in the form of Sister Jean.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Loyola fan or root for another school, if you’re Catholic, agnostic or somewhere in between. Everyone can take inspiration from the nun who continues to live life to the fullest at 98.
“My dad’s side of the family, my dad and his siblings, they all lived through their 90s. So that’s where I get that,” Sister Jean said Monday. “But I also, I have fun. I have fun with the young people, and I’m having fun with this.
“I’m having a glorious time through this NCAA whirlwind.”
Aging has become something of a dirty word in our society. Exercise, medications, cosmetic surgery, makeup — some people try just about anything in hopes of keeping time at bay.
But maybe we don’t need all that. Maybe what we need is a different perspective. Slowing down doesn’t mean stopping. Eat right, get enough sleep and take care of yourself, and you can be active and engaged at any age.
You can even manage becoming an overnight international celebrity with grace, humor and ease — even if it means having to push some things back on the to-do list.
“I try to be organized during the day so I get my tasks done,” Sister Jean said. “Right now, I’m overwhelmed with my email. All my tasks are not done, but they will get done.”
Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt has been at Loyola since 1991, when the Jesuit university merged with Mundelein College, where she’d taught for 30 years. She retired shortly after, but continued to live in a campus dorm and serve as an informal adviser to the basketball team.
When the previous team chaplain retired, Sister Jean was asked if she wanted the job. Not only did she take it, she took it upon herself to offer scouting reports of opponents and, when coach Porter Moser arrived, the players he was inheriting.
“Things turn out well when you work as a team, when you share the ball and you’re so kind to each other. And when you really like each other. That’s what happens with these young men, they really like each other,” Sister Jean said.
“They’re having what I call fun on the court,” she added. “If you don’t have fun when you’re playing, you’re not relaxed enough to get the ball into the basket.”
The same could be said for Sister Jean and her newfound celebrity.
She’s been inundated with interview requests, and Charles Barkley wants to take her sightseeing in San Antonio. She has a new bobblehead — the fastest-selling bobblehead in the company’s history, no less — and her name and image is now on everything from T-shirts to socks. Nike gave her a custom-made pair of sneakers.
“This whole thing actually mushroomed so quickly, I have a hard time understanding how it happened,” Sister Jean said.
But much like the Ramblers, only the fourth 11th seed to make the Final Four, she’s embracing the journey. It gives her an opportunity to share her faith — she is a nun, after all — and it’s good publicity for Loyola, the Missouri Valley Conference and Chicago.
“We need a good boost, and I think that’s what’s happening here,” Sister Jean said.
Age, just like an NCAA seed, is just a number. Thanks for the reminder, Sister Jean.
This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.