Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, 103, is many things these days – a Catholic nun, a chaplain, prayer warrior, college basketball celebrity and media darling, to name just a few roles.
The Loyola University fixture is also now an author, publishing a new memoir titled, “Wake Up with Purpose: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years.”
Sister Jean lives up to her own words. Rising at 5 a.m. each morning, she spends the first hour of her day praying, meditating, and then reading from one of the Gospels. She then checks her emails. She responds whenever she can, but some days there are hundreds of notes and dozens of media requests.
In her new book, the longtime chaplain for the Loyola University men’s basketball team stressed the need to keep up with the times.
“I guess there aren’t too many 103-year-old nuns using iPads these days – there aren’t too many 103-year-olds, period. But I’m pretty comfortable with modern technology. I’ve always said, ‘If you’re not moving forward, you’re going to get left behind real quick.’ Adaptability is my superpower.”
Sister Jean also shares her three-step discipline that she credits for her longevity and happiness.
“I eat well. I pray well. I sleep well.”
On the Loyola campus, she’s known as the smiling nun. She greets everyone each day with a wide grin and a hearty “Good morning!” – even the students with earbuds in and those looking down at their phones. College life keeps her young at heart.
“I love life so much and enjoy being with young people,” she told The Associated Press. “They’re the ones who keep me going because they bring such joy into my life — and they keep you updated on what’s happening in their world. I love working with these young people, and I think that’s what has kept not my body – but my heart, young.”
Jean Dolores Schmidt was born in San Francisco in 1919. She says God called her to be a nun when she was in the third grade.
Like many nuns, she became a schoolteacher, both in California and Illinois. She also coached basketball.
What’s her advice to young people?
“God gave you special talents and you have to use those talents. Each one [person] is different. Don’t disappoint God – go ahead and use them!”
Sister Jean was hired by Loyola when Mundelein College, where she was working, merged with the Chicago-based school. Calling herself the “booster shooter,” the nun was asked to help the new players adjust. Looking back on her last thirty years at the school, she calls the role “the most transformational and transcendent position” of her life.
Thanks to ESPN, the centenarian is now a celebrity, a term she scoffs at. “I just think everybody is a celebrity in his and her own way,” she said. “No matter what we’re doing, if we’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, then each one of us is a celebrity, each one is bright in the eyes of God.”
Photo from Getty.