Loyola Chicago's 101-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean, cleared to attend NCAA tourney
[Mar. 16, 2021: Connor Grott]
Loyola Chicago announced Tuesday that Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the 101-year-old chaplain for the school's men's basketball team, will attend the start of the NCAA tournament this weekend.
The university confirmed that Sister Jean will be at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday when the Ramblers open the NCAA men's tournament against Georgia Tech in Indianapolis. Loyola Chicago won the Missouri Valley Conference title and was seeded eighth in the Midwest region.
Sister Jean, who became an international celebrity during Loyola Chicago's improbable run to the Final Four in 2018, hasn't attended games since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. She made pregame prayers virtually throughout the 2020-21 season, but she remained in a senior independent living apartment in Chicago.
On Friday, Sister Jean -- who is fully vaccinated -- won't have any direct in-person contact with the team. She will have a nurse with her and security that will help escort her from the hotel to the game.
"What they wanted me to do was be sure that all the safety factors were taken into consideration," Sister Jean said during a videoconference Tuesday. "Sometimes people who haven't gone to the games or to the NCAA or even to March Madness, they're not sure exactly what goes on there.
"Sometimes they think it's like a teenage concert, where everybody's going to surround me and might not have any breathing space. If I'm not supposed to go on the court, I'm not going to go. And I'm not going to cause any disturbance."
Sister Jean said she wanted to go to the NCAA tournament for weeks, lobbying hard until the school finally cleared her to attend.
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"I had other offers from people at the university," she said. "One alum wrote and told me that her husband was willing to drive me down. Another person told me she was going to sneak me out of the university, and another couple said they would like to kidnap me, and Loyola would have to search for me."
Sister Jean, born Aug. 21, 1919, joined the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary convent in Iowa after graduating high school. She has served as Loyola Chicago's men's basketball team chaplain since 1994.