Life

This 100-year-old basketball-loving nun has the secret to a long and happy life

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Christobel Hastings
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Sister Jean became an overnight sensation during the 2018 March Madness college basketball tournament when she was pictured cheering on the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers. Now, the basketball-loving nun and beloved team chaplain has shared her secrets to a long and happy life.

The secret to long life is a question that keeps people eternally curious. Is it a healthy Mediterranean diet? Reducing our stress levels? Finding a like-minded community? Or perhaps, as this badass 107-year-old Bronx resident Louise Signore attests, the fountain of youth is all down to staying single. 

According to Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt though, a nun better known as Sister Jean who’s just celebrated her 100th birthday, the key to living to a ripe old age could lie in happiness.  

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It should be pointed out that Sister Jean is no ordinary centenarian. In Illinois, where the badass basketball-loving nun hails from, she’s something of a celebrity. Not only is she the team chaplain for the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, but she’s also their number 1 fan, making headlines last year during the 2018 March Madness college basketball tournament when she was pictured cheering from the sidelines.

This week, Sister Jean celebrated her milestone birthday in style with a community party in the Student Centre at the university’s Rogers Park campus, complete with songs, an enormous cake and branded merchandise in the team colours. Hundred of students and staff turned out for the momentous occasion too, as well as the university president and local politicians, including Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who declared Wednesday to be “Sister Jean Day” all across the state.

“This is what Loyola is all about,” she said, donning her maroon-and-gold striped scarf and custom-made Nikes. “This is what Rogers Park is about, and I appreciate everyone who is here today. I almost thought classes had started when I saw all the students here already.”

After the party, Head men’s basketball coach Porter Moser celebrated Sister Jean with a birthday message on Twitter, sparking the hashtag #SisterJean100.

In an interview with USA Today, Sister Jean revealed her secret to living a long life, with an emphasis on one key detail: joy.

“I try and look upon the joy I find in everyone,” Sister Jean said. “Joy is so important. Sometimes you’re going to have sad days, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our joy. You can still have that.”

But as well practising a positive attitude, the wise centenarian also highlighted the importance of self-development in bringing about a contended spirit, which, in turn, can enrich the lives of others.

“In order to have an impact on people, we have to be happy ourselves,” she continued. “Just be happy, be yourself. As I told the freshmen today, you have to be yourself. You can’t be anybody else.”

It seems fitting, then, that Loyola University have paid the nun’s generosity, kindness and compassion forward by creating a scholarship fund in Sister Jean’s name, which has already received a $250,000 donation from an alumni.

May the milestone birthdays continue for a long time to come, Sister Jean.

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.