It is both easy and complicated to reflect on one’s life when you reach 94. Easy because there are so many dear memories that flood my brain and touch my heart, and complicated because it is difficult to place so many thoughts, joys, lessons and experiences. “There by the grace of God I go” is a line full of meaning for me as I reflect on my 76 years in religious life.
My roots are deep and strong in the Catholic faith. I come from a faith-filled family and realized in third grade – yes, I know how young that was – that I wanted to be a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM). Once I knew what I wanted, I prayed that God wanted that for me as well.
In elementary and secondary school in San Francisco, I was taught by the BVMs, whose primary mission is education. They encouraged a way of life that included prayer, respect and care for others. They shared with us the lives of Mary Frances Clarke, our foundress, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Francis of Assisi, and countless other holy persons
I have shared my love with many people in the places I have taught and served: Los Angeles, North Hollywood, and Chicago. In my travels, my world has expanded and I have related more closely to God through prayer, study, community living, and sharing my life with others.
Reflection and discernment have always been a priority for me. Daily reflection refreshes me, keeps me current and connected in my life of service.
Often I reflect on the many gifts with which God has blessed me: good health, good friends, people who remember and support my community. I am also blessed by the students who have touched my life. I have had the privilege to pray, work, and enjoy these special individuals. They keep me young at heart. I currently serve at Loyola University Chicago in Campus Ministry as a chaplain. The work is a privilege, and I am thankful for the people who flow through my life: family, friends, students, alums, and often, unexpectedly, strangers who need to tell their stories and discuss their search for God to an unhurried ear. I am also chaplain to the men’s basketball team as well as in a campus residence hall where I live and interact with 400 freshmen and other students who enrich me and give me a sense of hope as we prepare them to lead extraordinary lives.
Serving as chaplain to the basketball team is a special gift. I never miss a game. I pray and reflect with the team and am always happy to discuss game strategy, scouting, our strengths and our weaknesses. As a team, we keep in mind Ignatius Loyola’s message to do all “for the greater glory of God,” but we also have our own mantra: the 3 W’s: Worship, Work, and Win!
These years of my religious life continue to go by quickly. I feel a sense of freedom that lets me praise, reverence and serve God as He continues to show me the way. The love from our BVM community and so many others enriches me.
Sr. Jean Dolores Schmidt is a Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and chaplain at Loyola University, Chicago.