Canonize Loyola-Chicago’s Sister Jean

Philip with an F, George Brett Expert

Merriam-Webster defines a saint as “one officially recognized especially through canonization as preeminent for holiness.” The declaration and subsequent process for a candidate to become a saint is known as canonization.

As the calendar turns from March to April and the culmination of the 2017-2018 NCAA Tournament draws near, there has been a plethora of feel-good stories to write about. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County became the first-ever 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed when they beat Virginia on the second night of tournament play. Kansas State, a nine seed, exceeded expectations and beat the fifth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats to advance to its first Elite 8 appearance since 2010. It was the team that beat them to advance to the Final Four, the 11th-seeded University of Loyola-Chicago, however, that was the biggest surprise.

The team’s 98-year-old chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who was with the school for its first national championship run in 1963, captivated the nation in particular. Sister Jean, with a combination of her support and pious profession, was the key to the school’s success. There’s no other explanation for Loyola-Chicago’s run to the national semifinal than some sort of divine intervention. It was nothing short of a miracle that the Ramblers got as far as they did and, because of that, Sister Jean deserves to enter sainthood.

To become a saint, one must be deceased, but Sister Jean appears just as lively as ever, so the case for her canonization will have to be made with that in mind.

Canonization is a complex process. It first involves examining everything the candidate has either said or written, which can take some time. If everything checks out, then the candidate becomes eligible for beatification. According to, “the Church looks at whether God truly performed a miracle and whether the miracle was in response to the intercession of the candidate saint. This is where Sister Jean’s case for sainthood can be made.

Loyola-Chicago won its first three games of the tournament by a combined four points. It needed a last-second three point shot from senior Donte Ingram to pull out a narrow 64-62 win against sixth-seeded Miami. In the following game against Tennessee, the third-ranked team in the region, it was redshirt junior Clayton Custer’s field goal with just over three seconds remaining that propelled Loyola to a 63-62 win and a Sweet 16 birth. Custer’s unbalanced shot hit the rim initially, but he got a friendly bounce—some are dubbing it as a “Sister Jean” roll—and the rest is history. A single game-winning shot is rare in itself, but two in the span of four days? One has to wonder if a greater power was at work there thanks to Sister Jean’s presence.

Throughout all of these games, the chaplain helped to scout potential opponents, led the team in prayer before and after games and served as a source of motivation and pride for the players, each of whom gave Sister Jean a hug after each game.

She was an integral component of Loyola-Chicago basketball, and deserved the credit for their stellar play in the tournament.

The Ramblers’ first two wins alone were miracles on their own, but factor in a surprise Final Four appearance, and it’s obvious that Sister Jean deserves to become a saint.