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NCAA Team Helped to Finals by Prayers of Nun

For the first time in 33 years, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers men's college basketball team made it into the NCAA tournament. They then surprised all the experts by making it to the round of the final eight out of 66 teams. Credit goes to the coach and the players, but also to a surprising source of strength and encouragement—a feisty 98-year-old nun, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, who serves as the team's chaplain and spiritual mom.

Here's how one news outlet described her role with the team: "She asks for God's protection for the players. She asks for the referees to call fouls 'justly.' She asks that the Ramblers execute the plays the way they were intended. The prayers are anything but bipartisan. 'I ask God to be especially good to Loyola so that, at the end of the game, the scoreboard indicates a big 'W' for us,' she said."

After each game, she sends notes of encouragement to the head coach and each player, always adding a personalized message congratulating a player for his performance or encouraging the downtrodden. Donte Ingram, a Loyola senior said, "There's been days throughout my last four years when I had a bad game, a down game. We might have won. We might have lost. But at the end of the message, she always found a way to make me feel better."

After breaking her hip mid-way through the season, restricted to a wheelchair, Sister Jean even made her way to St. Louis to watch—and pray—as Loyola won the conference tournament title. Then she showed up for every game of the NCAA tournament. "I know she's going to be there with us in prayer and cheering us on," Ingram said. "And that means a lot to us."

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