Sr. Jean . . . and Sr. Kathleen, Sr. Judith Ann, Sr. Sandra, Sr. Loretta, Sr. Silvia, etc.
“You’ve gone viral. Do you know what that means?”
The question was posed to Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, in one of the numerous nationally televised interviews the 98-year-old chaplain of Loyola University of Chicago’s men’s basketball team has granted during the Ramblers’ amazing run through the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
This time the questioner was Mariah Musselman, the young daughter of Nevada head coach Eric Musselman and 90 years Sister Jean’s junior. The adorable “interview” aired before the two teams met in the tournament’s Sweet 16 round on March 22.
Sister Jean answered that she didn’t know what “going viral” meant. “You’ll have to tell me.”
“Going viral means you’re everywhere,” said Mariah. “You’re on the TV, on the internet . . .”
Yes, Sister Jean has gone viral. Long an icon on the Chicago campus of the Jesuit-run university — she has been team chaplain since 1994 and was inducted into Loyola’s sports hall of fame a year ago — Sister Jean has reached rock star status nationally for her pre-game prayers and the post-game hugs team members have given her as the underdog Ramblers continued their mad march to this weekend’s Final Four games in San Antonio.
The notoriety comes after a lifetime of service Sister Jean has given as a member of the Dubuque-based Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including decades of teaching in elementary schools and at Mundelein College, a women’s college formerly located next to Loyola.
The Sisters of Charity have a nearly 150-year presence in the Diocese of Peoria, primarily in Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline, but also through the years in Lincoln, Pontiac, and the Streator area. That presence continues with Sister Kathleen Mullin, BVM, a member of the pastoral team at Sacred Heart Parish in Moline.
Consecrated women, most operating far from any spotlight, have been and continue to be treasures in many of our schools, medical centers, and Catholic institutions.
Next Saturday, April 7, more than 100 religious women from eight communities serving in our diocese as well as the Springfield Diocese will gather at the motherhouse of The Sisters of The Third Order of Saint Francis in East Peoria for a Regional Spiritual Workshop. The gatherings are encouraged by the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious to be “a wellspring of hope and a trusted resource for the ongoing revitalization of religious life and the new evangelization.”
We want all of those who will gather in East Peoria, and all consecrated women serving in our diocese, to know of our gratitude. And we invite the many who have enjoyed the story of Sister Jean to pause for a moment and pray that God blesses, and multiplies, our own amazing, beloved Sisters. — Thomas J. Dermody