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Katherine Wright | | August 25, 2020

Sister Jean celebrates her 101st birthday, virtually

Sister Jean's impact on Loyola-Chicago

Sister Jean lovers across the Loyola Chicago campus and nation shared the screen Friday morning to celebrate her 101st year.

But before her 101st birthday celebration began, a slideshow of notes populated screens of everyone attending the virtual celebration. Slide after slide included upwards of 163 reasons why Sister Jean is loved so deeply by so many: "Reason No. 163 — She is a symbol of the power of believing in something unwavering." 

As the team's chaplain, Sister Jean's faith and unrelenting support of Loyola Chicago's men's basketball team made her internationally famous during the program's 2018 Final Four run.

Lucas Williamson of Loyola Chicago men's basketball shared, "I know me and the team absolutely love when we get to huddle around you before our games because it gives us that much more confidence going into our games. I hope you enjoy your birthday, and we’ll see you on the court this year."

HER CENTENNIAL: How Sister Jean celebrated 100 years of life

Playing in the background, Motown hits "Can't Hurry Love" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" exuded the energy we've come to expect with Sister Jean. Her wittiness is unmatched even at 101 years old.

The cutest interview of March Madness

Sister Jean's impact on students was perfectly depicted by Maddie Drescher, President of the Student Government of Loyola Chicago.

"Sister Jean, I and many of us have only known you for just a few of your 101 years. We’ve known the good that you’ve done, the hope that you bring and the joy you radiate. You have epitomized what it means to walk with the youth toward a hopeful future.

"My peers and I have known you as a source of hope and spirit in our Rambler community, you spoke time and time again about the importance of teamwork and being team players. When you rose to fame as an international superstar with our Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2018, you lit up our televisions and our campus in my and many of our first years at Loyola. Your smile and your words and your hope give us hope for what was to come in our journeys at Loyola."

Loyola Chicago's all-time winningest basketball player Bruno Skokna and men's basketball coach Porter Moser shared their love and birthday wishes for Sister Jean, with Moser adding, "Thank you for being the ultimate example of positivity, passion, energy, but most importantly thank you for being our friend."

2018 FINAL FOUR: What What it was like to be at Sister Jean's Final Four press conference

After Loyola Chicago’s a-cappella group The Silhouettes sang "Happy Birthday", Sister Jean finally made her on-screen appearance. Looking as cheerful and poised as ever, she gave thanks to everyone celebrating her.

"Thank you so much to each one of you for my birthday wishes," she said. "Yes, now it’s 101. People tell me it sounds like a freshman course and that I can start all over again. But no way. I’ll be going to 102 beginning the day after my birthday. So thank you again and God bless all of you Ramblers and Ramblers by adoption. Amen and go Ramblers."

Speaking with four days after the celebration, Sister Jean revealed her goals for the next year. "I really want to go back to campus. So I have to become an essential person," she said with a giggle. 

That won't be possible for the foreseeable future due to COVID-19 constraints, but Sister Jean is still able to speak with students over Zoom calls and emails. In fact, that's how she's stayed in contact with the men's basketball team. Every other week since the March lockdown, Sister Jean has emailed each member.

And on her 101st birthday before the 11 a.m. video celebration, coach Moser gathered the whole team to sing "Happy Birthday" over Zoom.

"Some of the guys had the cone birthday hats on top of their heads," Sister Jean said. "That was a real thrill for me."

Sister Jean plans to continue that positivity into the new school year. She has always preached hope to her students; COVID-19 hasn't changed that.

"No matter how bad something seems to be there’s always some good going to come out of it," Sister Jean said. "I believe that good is going to come out of this virus and all the other problems we have because we’re going to treat people in a different way. We’re going to be more respectful to other people, to other cultures, to other races."

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