Sister Jean is back!
The 101-year-old chaplain for Loyola University Chicago men’s basketball team was a breakout star when the Ramblers advanced to the Final Four as an unheralded No. 11 seed in 2018. Now, after the NCAA Tournament was canceled last year due to the pandemic, the team is enjoying another run in March Madness, getting set to battle No. 12 seed Oregon State University in the Sweet 16 after defeating Georgia Tech and No. 1 seed University of Illinois in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
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Sister Jean received the COVID-19 vaccine, which enabled her to go to Indianapolis so she could pray for the team and watch the squad win.
“It was like a tripleheader because it took me awhile to get the OK to go to Indianapolis,” she said Thursday on the 3rd hour of TODAY, while joined by Ramblers head coach Porter Moser.
“I was happy to get the vaccine and then to beat Illinois was a fantastic feat for our team and a great boost for our school, and I was so excited," she continued. "And people say to me, ‘You look so serious during the games, Sister Jean.’ And I said, ‘I’m paying attention to the game and playing every step along with these young men.'”
Moser said having Sister Jean is integral to the team.
“It means everything. Her spirit and everything, she’s woven in who we are,” Moser said, before recalling the prayer the beloved chaplain gave 10 years ago at his first game as coach. He said Sister Jean spoke into a microphone in front of everyone inside the arena and prayed “for the officials’ eyesight” to call fouls on the opponent.
“She’s a fan. When she says she watches seriously, she does,” Moser said. “People can’t come up to her during the game. If you see her there next game, don’t come up to her. She’s so much a part of who we are.”
When the Ramblers face Oregon State, Sister Jean will offer one prayer for the fans and another for the team, which she shared on TODAY, although she wouldn’t give it all away in case the opposing Beavers were listening.
“I will say, ‘You know what? You believe in yourselves. I believe in you. Porter believes in you. The fans believe in you. Let’s show the world that they need to believe in you, too. So, just get out and win that game. Just do it,'” she said.
She also said she will make sure the players don’t get overwhelmed by the moment.
“And I will say to them, ‘Don’t be afraid of the height of these young Beavers that we’re going to face today. Just be calm. Don’t let anybody get under your skin. Make those fast breaks. And watch every single person on the team,'" Sister Jean said.
She added that she'll also "name a few numbers for them to look out for."
“And Porter doesn’t mind that I do that because we’re always on the same page without even confirming what we’re going to say. And so then at the end of that I say to them, ‘Please extend your hands as I ask God to bless them to get that ball into the basket.’ And then we say, ‘Amen,’ ‘God bless you’ and ‘Go Ramblers.’”
Sister Jean also played it coy when explaining why she only picked the Ramblers to make it to the Elite Eight, while noting she thought they’d go to the Sweet 16 in 2018 when they made it all the way to the Final Four.
“So, this year, I moved them up to the Elite Eight knowing that they would push a little harder trying to get to the top of the heap, and that is possible,” she said.