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Sister Jean is a Picture of Wellness at 93 Years

Carrie Steckl earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology with a Minor in Gerontology from Indiana University – Bloomington in 2001. She has spent over ...Read More

Being a gerontologist as well as a psychologist, I always enjoy learning from older people who exemplify the many dimensions of wellness we strive to achieve. Sister Jean is clearly one of those people.

As I read my Chicago Tribune this morning, my eyes lit up as I saw a picture of Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the chaplain for the Division I men’s basketball team at Loyola University, in the center of a huddle with her players towering over her. You see, Sister Jean is only 5 feet tall, while Loyola’s basketball team is much, much taller. Yet they look up to Sister Jean in every sense but the literal one.

As I read the article about Sister Jean and watched the accompanying video, it dawned on me that this 93-year-old nun is thriving in all the multidimensional ways I describe in this blog. Her eyes sparkle with awareness, her movements are with joyous purpose, and her excitement for life emanates from her very being. She may have never heard of the seven dimensions of wellness that I write about, but she excels in every one. Here’s what I mean:

  • Physical wellness - Sister Jean is spry, mobile, and gets lots of exercise in her multifaceted role as chaplain.
  • Social wellness – Her chaplaincy puts her in contact with people of all ages, including students, faculty, and administrators. These relationships appear to nurture her as she nurtures and encourages others.
  • Spiritual wellness – Sister Jean found her religious calling right after high school and has infused her spirituality with her work ever since.
  • Environmental wellness – She lives in a freshman dormitory where she can offer her chaplain duties to the greater student body, which seems to further energize her.
  • Intellectual wellness – Sister Jean has worked on college campuses for decades and has adapted to the rise of technology in everyday life. In fact, she sends emails to the basketball coaches and players after every game, offering her analysis and encouragement.
  • Occupational wellness – She obviously has found a vocation she loves and that fulfills her. And it shows.
  • Emotional wellness – I’ve always seen this dimension as an outcropping of the other six. Since Sister Jean is thriving in all the other dimensions of wellness, her emotional wellness is top-notch.

Sister Jean reminds me of my Great Aunt Mina who lived well into her 90s and showed charisma, gratitude, and love along with a sharp wit until the day she died. People like this make other people feel good – heck, the Loyola basketball fans chant “Sis-ter-Jean, Sis-ter-Jean” whenever she enters the gym. They even created a Sister Jean bobble head in her likeness.

Even though I’ve never met Sister Jean, I feel like she’s taught me a great deal about how to stay well throughout the lifespan. I’m not sure I would want to live in a freshman dormitory again, but the point is that such an arrangement works for her. She knows herself, which is a beautiful skill we should all develop sooner rather than later.


Cohen, J. S. (March 5, 2013). Loyola men’s basketball chaplain, a 93-year-old nun, is full of team spirit. Chicago Tribune:,0,4489861.story?page=1 (Note: An account is required to access the entire article.)

Keep Reading By Author Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
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