The No. 20 Loyola men’s basketball team (21-4, 16-2) is set for its first matchup against Southern Illinois University (12-13, 5-13) March 5 in St. Louis at the annual Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament, Arch Madness.
Part of the Ramblers’ game preparation will be a call from 101-year-old men’s basketball Chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, BVM, about 30 minutes before game time.
Sister Jean told Phoenix reporters she’ll get a call from Director of Men’s Basketball Operations London Dokubo, who will put her on speaker phone with the team in the locker room.
“Then I’ll pray with them,” Sister Jean said. “Just remind them of what they’re supposed to do. They listen to me, I know that. At the end of the prayer, I ask them to extend their hands and I ask God to bless their hands so that they have control of the ball to get it into the baskets, to keep it from turnovers, to get the rebound and convert the rebounds to points.”
Sister Jean said she’ll do this pregame prayer for the Ramblers as long as they’re in St. Louis competing in the tournament.
Teams began play March 4 with the championship game slated for March 7 at St. Louis’ Enterprise Center. Heading into the tournament, Loyola earned the No. 1 seed and a bye in the first round.
Locked down in her apartment, Sister Jean said she wanted to go to Arch Madness “so badly.” She’s had both doses of the Moderna vaccine, but ultimately, she said she couldn’t go due to COVID-19-related restrictions at Enterprise Center.
“I already sent [the players] an email telling them I couldn’t go… how sad I was,” Sister Jean said. “But [that] I would be with them in prayer and in spirit and I know they can do this, I know they can be number one.”
In normal seasons, Sister Jean does a pregame prayer with the team in-person, but this season she’s had to perform her duties as chaplain virtually due to the pandemic. She’s also been known through the years to send emails to players with postgame feedback or scouting reports of the next opponent.
This season, Sister Jean has taken advantage of emailing and calling the players and coaches. She said she has sent players an email ahead of each game and called to do a prayer at home games. After wins, she said she sends head coach Porter Moser and the other coaching staff an email commending them.
“It’s been fun this year because it’s mostly congratulations,” she said.
Then, Sister Jean said she’ll send an email to each player, the body generic with a customized message at the end.
“At the bottom I put a little P.S. for each person… I say, ‘Oh, you did so great,’ or ‘Let’s have some more three-pointers,’ whatever fits them individually,” she said.
Though she has adapted to this new format, she said she misses being in-person with the men’s basketball team for her chaplain duties — a job she’s done since 1994.
“I absolutely miss talking to them and being with them and praying with them,” she said. “When I’m with them [in-person before games] and they go off on the court, I do make a sign of the cross on their hands before they go out there. It’s a wonderful tradition, things that we’ve had, and I hope we don’t lose them.”
Sister Jean said she thinks the team will be successful at Arch Madness and could have a chance at getting chosen for the tournament on Selection Sunday March 14 as long as nobody gets injured.
And if all goes well, she said she wants to be at March Madness in Indianapolis.
“What I want to do is actually go,” Sister Jean said. “I already started my petition today.”
The Ramblers play March 5 at 11:00 a.m. on Fox Sports Midwest, Fox Sports Indiana, Fox Sports Kansas City and NBC Sports Chicago.