Sister Jean wins 2018 Illinois Senior Hall of Fame award

CHICAGO — Sister Jean was already an international celebrity and beloved team chaplain. Now, you can call her a Hall-of-Famer.

Officials gathered Friday to present the Catholic nun and celebrated Loyola-Chicago basketball chaplain with Illinois' 2018 Senior Hall of Fame award.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner helped present the award to the 99-year-old.

“Age is just a number,” Sister Jean said. “Somebody asked me the other day, ‘How come you’re so generous in telling people your age?’ I said, ‘Women are the most hesitant in telling their age, but once you get to one spot and announce it – that’s the end. So just keep on adding years as you go along.”

She said she hopes to leave this lasting lesson: If you’re doing good work, there’s never a good time to stop.

“I just want every one of you to work until you actually want to stop,” she said, “because once you stop, that’s the end of the line.”

Sister Jean has served as the chaplain for the Ramblers basketball team for more than two decades, praying for the team and occasionally seeking divine intervention. She seemed to get it earlier this year when the Ramblers embarked on an unlikely run to the NCAA Final Four.

The team was thrust into the national spotlight — and there was Sister Jean, sitting in her wheelchair, dressed in a Loyola letter jacket and her maroon and gold scarf, an instant icon and an international celebrity.

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, in conjunction with Loyola, produced a limited edition Sister Jean bobblehead.

State Sen. John Cullerton, who nominated Sister Jean for the award, said she's been a goodwill ambassador for the school, the city of Chicago and the state.

Sister Jean had these words Friday: “You can always do good by a smile, or goodness in some way or another. … And of course I have to say, ‘Go Ramblers.’”