Even to Sister Jean Delores-Schmidt, the lovable nonagenarian nun and team chaplain who became a star during Loyola University Chicago’s stunning run to the Final Four two years ago, this is new territory: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought big chunks of the world to a near standstill.
“This is very different,” said Sister Jean, who turns 101 this year. “Spanish flu was just about over in 1919 when I was born and so I only know about that through hearsay and what my family told me... I’ve lived through the Depression, I’ve lived through World War II and all these other things that have happened within the last 20 years — but nothing like this.”
“It’s a totally whole new thing,” she added. “It’s sort of like a futuristic movie, where things just happen when everything is foggy and people aren’t alert.”
Photo: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY
Although there are no games, Sister Jean has been staying busy.
She is still working. She has been undergoing physical therapy — lately only in her room — at the downtown rehab facility where she has lived ever since she broke a hip about two years ago. The treatment has been to strengthen her right leg following a bout of shingles.
Loyola released a video this week with her wearing a maroon and gold scarf, urging others to stay home and practice social distancing.
She calls it “a team effort” and encourages people to pray for healthcare workers and store employees, who are “making sacrifices for us.”
Sister Jean said that she has been calling basketball players to see how they are doing and to make sure that they are keeping up with their schoolwork with the campus basically shut down.
All members of the team are also required to complete an essay — “Desires of the Heart” — detailing their goals.
Sister Jean was hoping that Loyola would get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since their magical Final Four run, but a loss to Valparaiso in the Missouri Valley quarter-finals basically dashed those hopes for her Ramblers, who finished this season 21-11.
Had there been an NCAA Final Four tournament this year, she knows who she would have picked to win.
“I was thinking Kentucky would win it this year,” Sister Jean said.
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