In a recent interview with Good Morning America, Loyola-Chicago's charming 98-year-old chaplain in a wheelchair, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, gave viewers an idea of what she prays for when the Ramblers huddle up before each game.
"I do begin with 'Good and gracious God, today we hope to win this game.' We ask to give us courage. We already have the confidence. We're focused. We know we want to work hard. At the end of the game, we want to be sure that when the buzzer goes off that the numbers indicate that we get the big 'W'. I pray for the other team, perhaps not as hard," she said in the interview. "But we have God on our side. These young men have great faith. If you don't have confidence and faith, then you might as well not be playing."
While cheering on the 11th-seeded Ramblers during their Cinderella run to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, giving each player a post-game hug and granting endless interview requests, Sister Jean is also happily sharing her faith and Christian spirit with the world.
During the Ramblers' 69-68 win over Nevada Thursday, a fan held up a sign that read "Mission From God." The poster featured the smiling face of Sister Jean, Chicago's "most famous" citizen, the Washington Post reported.
"A sign in the first few rows of a section filled with Loyola-Chicago faithful — and that's the precise words Ramblers fans use to refer to themselves, with good reason — told the story of the No. 11 seed that continued to defy the odds," Post writer Gene Wang wrote.
Sister Jean has even been captured in LEGO form dunking a basketball, according to USAToday.com.
Often seen sporting a letterman jacket and a scarf with the team's yellow and maroon colors, Sister Jean's impact has been greatest on Loyola-Chicago's players. After a last-second 3-pointer lifted Loyola-Chicago to a 64-62 victory over Miami, their first NCAA Tournament game in 33 years, Marques Townes told reporters of her positive influence on him.
"Her presence and her aura, when you see her, it's just like the world is just great because just her spirit and her faith in us and Loyola basketball and just her being around," Townes said in a New York Times article.
Loyola-Chicago's coach, Porter Moser, agreed with Townes about Sister Jean's undeniable presence in another New York Times article. The team has displayed her words, "Worship, work, win" in the team's weight room. Another saying that is prominently displayed on wall outside the Rambler's arena is a quote from St. Ignatius of Loyola that Moser feels "exemplifies" Sister Jean: "Go forth and set the world on fire."
“She lights up every room she goes into," Moser told the New York Times. "She’s always smiling. She has an energy about herself. I connect with that.”
Moser told ESPN.com that it's been good to see her receive so much attention after so many years of service.
"We've known how much of a blessing she has been to us for years, since I got the job," Moser said. "To see her get the national spotlight, it's fun."
Clayton Custer, another player, told the Des Moines Register he appreciates Sister Jean's team prayers.
"Sister Jean always says a prayer just before the team runs onto the court," Custer said. "Somehow, in her prayer, she manages to throw in some tips on how to beat the team we’re playing — it’s kind of her scouting report."
Loyola students are also fond of Sister Jean. In a 2012 Loyolaphoenix.com article, then-junior Katie O'Neill said she got to know the elderly nun in a weekly prayer group.
“Sister Jean is the most genuine, faith-filled person I know. The love that she shows for everyone she meets is unmatched. Since I’ve been at school, she’s kind of been like a second grandma for me. She’s very easy to be around and is really funny and lighthearted,” O’Neill said in the article.9 comments on this story
A lifelong fan of basketball and Loyola-Chicago's chaplain since the 1990s, Sister Jean starts each day with prayer and meditation, according to the New York Times.
"Sister Jean wakes before dawn ... 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," Times writer Jeff Arnold wrote.
“Whether we win or lose,” she told The New York Times, “God is still with us.”