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Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt

Loyola’s basketball team chaplain, 98, on her sudden fame, scouting reports, and aversion to naps

Illustration by Kathryn Rathke
Illustration: Kathryn Rathke

After Donte’s shot, I woke up the next morning and said, “Is this a dream? No, no. It’s for real. We’re going on a little bit more in the NCAA.” And then people started asking me to say something about it. It startled me, because I didn’t know how it got so big so fast. I don’t like to call it viral, because that sounds like a disease. I like to say it mushroomed.

I keep looking at my emails, and every day it’s still like 450, 465. It’s overwhelming. Some want interviews. Some are scams. Some ask for prayers. They tell me they are very happy that I spoke about God openly. One man told me that he’d been away from the Catholic Church for 40 years and was going to start going again because of me. Things like that really affect me.

At home games, I say a prayer with the team. It is really more like a pep talk. I’ve done scouting reports on every team. I tell the players who they should watch out for. I can tell by the smiles on their faces that Coach Porter and I are on the same track.

I say a prayer with the fans, too. I pray that God will keep both sides from injuries and help them with the skills their coaches teach them. Then, toward the end, I say, “God, be sure the referees see everything that they’re supposed to see and call it justly, and for our team, so that the score will indicate a big W for the Ramblers.”

Oh yeah, I get stressed out during games. I say, “God, where are you? We prayed already. Get in there and help us.

I send Porter an email immediately after the game, as soon as I get to my computer, no matter what time of night. And then one to the team the next day. The body of it is the same for everybody, but at the end is a little PS, like: “Donte, how come we didn’t have any 3-pointers?”

Believe it or not, since Loyola had such a great run last year, our sisters are now trying to get a team together. The emails were flying last week: “Who played basketball in high school?”

My dad worked for the City of San Francisco. He started as a janitor and earned $90 a month. My mom worked in a department store for only a couple months. In those days, moms didn’t work, but she wanted to try it. She said, “I don’t like it, so I have to quit.” I tell students, “If you don’t like your work, you’re a pain to yourself and everybody else, so get another job.” I guess I learned that from my mother.

My grandmother was a very holy woman. Went to Mass every day, went to the funeral of everybody in the parish. She’d walk down those hills of San Francisco to get to St. Boniface Church. She was Irish, but it was a German church. Whenever they had big deals there, she would take me. They had processions, like for the Feast of St. Anthony, and you’d join in. For me it was practice.

Even in third grade, I knew. People would say, “What are you going to be?” And I’d say, “I’m going to be a sister.” I loved the way the sisters were so kind. They were very happy and seemed to have a good time.

I don’t go out and protest. I don’t believe you get things by yelling and screaming and holding up signs. I think you get things when you talk quietly to people and get them to try to rationalize.

I don’t take naps. You have to keep moving. If you stop, you suddenly feel as if you shouldn’t do anything. Don’t show people you are tired.

My mom used to say, “It’s better to wear out than rust out.”

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