The Loyola-Chicago Ramblers’ Cinderella runs in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament ended too soon, but Sister Jean is still going strong.
Even after Villanova knocked off Michigan – the team that ended Loyola’s run – in the tournament’s final game, it was the feisty 98-year-old nun who was the champion.
Sister Jean has served as the Loyola men’s basketball team’s chaplain for nearly a quarter of a century. A former player and coach, she serves up straight talk, scouting reports, and spiritual guidance for her team.
Fans spotted the nonagenarian on the sidelines early in the tournament. She was hard to miss in her maroon, gold scarf, letterman’s jacket, and custom maroon and gold Nikes emblazoned with her name on the heels. She became a media darling.
She leads the team and fans in prayer, asking God to keep all the players safe, and asking for all to play to the best of their abilities. She’s not been shy about asking God for a Rambler victory, too.
Sister Jean’s moxie captured the hearts of basketball fans, and her bobblehead has become one of the biggest selling of all time. So what can we learn from Sister Jean’s moxie? A lot:
People with moxie answer the call.
Born in San Francisco in 1919, Jean Dolores Schmidt knew from the third grade that she was called to be a nun. So she entered the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary convent in Iowa after graduating high school in 1937. A few years later, she began a life devoted to service as a teacher. Eventually, she was called to teach at Mundelein College, a women’s school in Chicago. She stayed there even after the school merged with Loyola-Chicago in the early 90s.
Sister Jean had played and coached basketball early in her career, and she supported and encouraged the men’s team members. After the priest who had served as the team chaplain retired, a Jesuit suggested Sister Jean take on the role. She’d never been a team chaplain before, but she was willing to give it a shot.
People with moxie are willing and available. What if Sister Jean had said “no” to that still, small voice prompting her to a lifetime of service? What if she had demurred at the thought of taking on a role offering spiritual leadership and encouragement to powerful young men who tower over her on every side?
Sister Jean has the moxie to say “yes” to opportunities that come her way and trust the one she believes orchestrates those opportunities to supply her with what she needs.
Moxie won’t shield you from the mockers.
You’d think a frail 98-year-old nun in a wheelchair would be protected from criticism, especially on Easter weekend. You’d be wrong.
In the final moments of the Michigan game, as the Ramblers’ fate was all but sealed, Sister Jean left her spot on the sidelines. Commentators noted her exit, and the Twitterverse erupted in judgment. Cruel memes featuring Sister Jean superimposed with an image of a teary Michael Jordan began making the rounds along with “jokes” about her being a fair-weather fan and a fraud.
In truth, Sister Jean was making her way to the team tunnel so that she would be ready to greet her team as they exited the court. She wanted to be where she always was, the first friendly face to greet them with a squeeze of the hand, a hug, and a word of encouragement.
Our world is quick to judge and mock, and people with moxie can be easy targets. But folks with real moxie, like Sister Jean, go on doing what they are called to do, how they are called to do it, despite the haters.
People with moxie always look to the next game.
After every game, Sister Jean sends an email to the team. First, she calls out players by name, praising them for their contributions. Then, she encourages them to put the last game behind them and focus on what’s ahead. It’s one game at a time, she says.
I don’t know the contents of the last email she sent this team after their loss to Michigan. But I would imagine it was full of encouragement. I’m sure she called out great plays and excellent effort. I’m sure, too, that she encouraged them to look ahead, some to the next season and some to the next season of life.
Wherever these young men go, they will know they have had their own special guardian angel looking out for them, advising them, and asking God to bless and keep them. That’s a powerful gift.
People with moxie offer hope. Even in defeat and discouragement, they can get up once more and greet a new day and a new season.
If Sister Jean were writing an email to you, what do you think she would say?