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Loyola Red Line Stop Plaza Dedicated to Sister Jean

Nicky Andrews | The PhoenixThe plaque on the dedicated sign says Sister Jean rose to fame during the men's basketball team's 2018 Cinderella run.

In honor of her 103rd birthday, Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM was honored by Loyola, the state of Illinois and the City of Chicago as they named the Loyola Red Line Stop Plaza after her.

As the crowd of people grew around Schmidt, she was joined by Governor J.B. Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Alderwoman Maria Hadden and Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney.

“Oh my gosh, oh my gosh,” Schmidt said as she rolled up to the decorated plaza with ‘103’ written in both balloons and cupcakes. “I can’t thank people enough for coming to support me today.”

Having just come from mass at Madonna Della Strada, Vice President Father James Prehn opened the ceremony with a prayer, commending the sense of humor and gratitude of Schmidt. In addition to Loyola faculty, a number of sisters and alumni of Mundelein College were in attendance.

Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix Governor J.B. Pritzker was proud to be in the presence of such a caring member of the community.

Prehn then welcomed Pritzker who referred to Schmidt as “a beacon of grace and compassion.”

“I have to say there is an awful lot of love here today, and I thank all of you for directing your love at Sister Jean,” Pritzker said. “And, likewise, there is enough love in her for all of us.”

Priztker said he was proud everyone hopping on and off the Red Line would be met by Schmidt’s name in the brick-lined plaza.

“The people of Illinois and around the world are thinking of her,” Pritzker told The Phoenix. “As governor, I wanted to recognize that,”

Mayor Lightfoot, matching Pritzker in a Loyola scarf, took the podium next.

Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sister Jean implored those around her to act with “passion, energy and purpose.”

“We are blessed to have such incredible longevity of a person of such stature in our presence,” Lightfoot said. “I believe that people who live this long, live a life for us as an example.”

Relating to Schmidt as a fellow Leo, Lightfoot announced the city of Chicago would be recognizing August 21, 2022 as Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt Day.

“You have graced the lives of generations of students and their families here,” President Rooney said. “Your ministry, that makes everyone feel loved, seen and heard, along with your mantra — worship, work and win — have inspired a global family of alumni, friends and fans.”

Rooney then led the crowd below the pavilion to sing “Happy Birthday” in Schmidt’s honor as the sign was unveiled. It declared the space “Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM Plaza,” establishing her as a mainstay of Rogers Park.

The sign explains Schmidt’s claim to fame as the chaplain of the men’s basketball team, as well as chronicling her membership to the religious order of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM).

Alderwoman Hadden, who represents the 49th ward, added she is ever-inspired by Schmidt, saying there’s always something to learn from people who have lived such a long life.

Nicky Andrews | The Phoenix The dedication ceremony followed a mass at Loyola’s Madonna Della Strada.

“You can know somebody’s cool, but it’s really nice to be able to have people’s story out there so you can learn a little bit about their lives and the story behind the figure,” Hadden told The Phoenix.

The dedication was inspired by The Women’s L Project in March, according to Schmidt. Founded by Janet Volk, the project symbolically named each stop of Chicago’s CTA system after important women in Chicago history. Other women of Illinois included Betty White, Michelle Obama and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.

“I loved it and I thought, ‘OK even if it’s just the plaza that’s good enough for me,’” Volk told The Phoenix. “One L station down, 140 left to go.”

Following the ceremony, Schmidt had lunch with Mundelein College alumni and BVM sisters. In her closing remarks, she said everyone in attendance was included in her daily prayers.

“Remember that when things get hard, just say, ‘God, where’s Sister Jean’s prayer?’” Schmidt said.

Isabella Grosso contributed to this story.

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