100 years of wisdom: Sister Jean, matriarch of Loyola University Chicago, to publish a memoir

The 103-year-old Catholic nun has a lot to share.

SHARE 100 years of wisdom: Sister Jean, matriarch of Loyola University Chicago, to publish a memoir
Less than a week before her 103rd birthday, Sister Jean Dolores Bertha Schmidt, the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary — better known as Sister Jean — reflects on life, love and basketball during a conversation with the Chicago Sun-Times at Loyola University on the North Side, Thursday afternoon, Aug. 18, 2022.

Sister Jean Dolores Bertha Schmidt will publish a memoir in February.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Sister Jean has some tales to tell.

And maybe some advice, too.

Guidance from the beloved Catholic nun who became known nationally as Loyola University Chicago’s biggest athletics booster will come in the form of a memoir titled: “Wake Up with Purpose!: What I’ve Learned in My First Hundred Years.”

The book is “part life story, part philosophy text, and part spiritual guide,” according to publisher Harper Select.

It’s scheduled for publication Feb. 28.

“I’ve seen so many changes in the last 103 years, but the important things remain the same. I wanted to recount the story of my life for people, not because I feel that I am so special or my life has been so extraordinary, but rather as a way to give people hope and optimism that once they find their purpose, they can go through life with joy and fulfillment,” Sister Jean said in a statement put out by Harper Select.

Sister Jean Dolores Bertha Schmidt, who is a religious sister of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, has been a celebrity on campus for decades to generations of Loyola students. 

But she became a nationally recognizable figure, clad in a maroon-and-gold scarf, while cheering for her team during a successful run in the NCAA tournament in 2018. 

“As I write in the book, it took me 98 years to become an overnight sensation, and I have a lot more living to do. I hope people will enjoy taking this very, very long stroll down memory lane with me,” she said.

The book covers her time as a Catholic school teacher during World War II, her experience on Loyola University Chicago’s campus in the ’60s and her time since 1994 when she began serving as team chaplain for Loyola’s men’s basketball team.

She collaborated with author Seth Davis to put her life lessons on paper. 

“When Seth Davis asked if I would be interested in writing a book together, I was skeptical that I could find the time. I still go into my office at Loyola five days a week and keep a very busy schedule year-round,” Sister Jean said. “I’m glad I agreed to give it a try because I enjoyed so much revisiting all these memories that I hadn’t thought about in so many years.”

Davis said: “I’m happy with how this book came out, but I know that words could never do justice to explain just how much of a national treasure she is. She is truly a gift from God. Sister Jean is just as happy, hopeful, funny, and cool as she seems. She has a loving heart, a giving soul, and a superhuman memory. I tried to capture not just her words but her spirit so that every reader will get to feel what I felt during all those hours of conversations. Writing this book with her has been one of the great honors of my life.”

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