CHICAGO — As she approaches the century mark, Sister Jean isn’t slowing down.
“There are so many things happening all at once I keep saying ‘cool it girl, cool it,'” Sister Jean said. “Because we’ll get it all done, just take our time and do it right.”
The international celebrity nun preaches patience as the birthday celebrations add up like candles on her cake.
“I’ve never celebrated a month before, but why not, you only get to be 100 only once. That’s like being Cinderella, only once,'” she said.
The belle of the ball has a calendar full of birthday bashes and a new exhibit honoring her life at the Loyola University Museum Of Art. Called “A Century of Sister Jean,” the exhibit features everything from baby pictures to bobbleheads, cardboard cut-outs and selfies.
“All my memorabilia from the Final Four, that took up a whole room by itself. It’s just fun to look at all of it, to see all the things people thought about giving me and fun things,” she said.
As a child, birthdays for Sister Jean and her two younger brothers were special celebrations.
“My mom always let us choose own menu for the day. In the days of the depression, that didn’t happen very often. We all liked Chicken Fricassee, homemade noodles and pound cake. Mom made best pound cake, loaded with icing,” she said.
Aunts and uncles on her dad’s side lived to their mid 90s, but she’ll be her family’s first centenarian. So what’s Sister Jean’s secret?
“I eat well, I sleep well, and hopefully, I pray well. You have to learn to take care of yourself. I teach young men and women to take care of yourself because if you don’t, you’re not going to be any good to take care of anyone else,” she said.
“You always hear when people retire they go down here, their mind goes,” said Loyola men’s basketball coach Porter Moser. “Well, she’s 100, but not close to retiring from having a purpose. She has a purpose every day in this community.”
Last year, Sister Jean suffered through shingles in her right leg, complications from a broken hip.
“They’ve given me Botox injections, so I have the most beautiful foot in Chicago right now,” she said.
She’ll still be a fixture at Loyola sporting events even if her basketball scouting reports have been slowed this summer.
“Some of the teams are getting very cagey about hiding all the things they do now,” she said.
Sister Jean has adapted to the spotlight since her Final Four fame, and as the center of attention again to commemorate her milestone birthday, she’s focusing on what really matters to her.
“Well it’s sort of overwhelming to me, of course, but I have to say to myself ‘go with the flow.’ If I’m making people happy, that’s important to me too. It’s as important to me as being happy myself,” she said.