The Clare Corner: Loyola brings SMILEs to The Clare
Loyola Neighborhood News: Water Tower Campus - V3, I3
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, BVM, is a familiar presence at Loyola University Chicago, whether cheering on the Ramblers basketball team as their Chaplain, or connecting with students as they wait to board the intercampus shuttle bus at the Water Tower Campus. However, Sister Jean is also responsible for helping create a connection between Loyola and The Clare.
“I decided that I probably should be responsible for some sort of program and thought we should cooperate with The Clare,” said Sister Jean. “I started researching the Campus Ministry programs at the various Jesuit institutions and I saw one from Loyola University New Orleans that really struck a chord in my heart.”
That program was SMILE, Students Moving Into the Lives of the Elderly.
“I think it was the name that really grabbed me,” noted Sister Jean.
Indeed, the name accurately describes the efforts of this program, which pairs Loyola students with residents of The Clare to form intergenerational—and meaningful—relationships.
“The spirit in The Clare is such a wonderful thing, and we wanted the students to be able to experience that,” Sister Jean said.
SMILE was developed in 2009 with special regard to the proximity of The Clare in regards to the entire Water Tower Campus, an increasingly busy hub of student activity. With many students living in Baumhart Residence Hall, and a growing number of residents moving into The Clare, Sister Jean thought it wise to pair the two populations to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Upon organizing an introductory social for interested parties, Sister Jean noticed that she needed to do very little work to pair up students with The Clare residents.
“There was really no burden on me, it was so independently run,” she said. “You could see that the relationships began to develop right away, it was beautiful.”
The goals of the program initially sought to establish a relationship between Loyola University and the Clare, to share programming and activities information, and to reach out and be of assistance to its residents. Today, SMILE has successfully achieved and surpassed these goals, creating sincere and lasting friendships through unique opportunities for connection.
“They have made such wonderful connections with the people at The Clare,” said Sister Jean. “It’s a real community.”
Though each pair varies, Sister Jean noted that they are very casual and normal types of relationships.
“The whole program is individualized,” she said. “Some of them work on the computers, some of them go on walks when the weather is nice, some of them go grocery shopping, they write letters for them, they go to LUMA—whatever the partner needs, the students do, and if they’re not able to do, they bring a friend to help them out.”
As for Sister Jean, she enjoys coordinating the program to see the development of a significant connection between two friends.
“I love working with the young, and I can see that they love working with their friends,” said Sister Jean. “The residents also relate to me, and I relate to the students, so it all comes together in that way.”
Following the success of SMILE, several other institutions have contacted Sister Jean to help adopt similar programs connecting youth with the elderly.
“I think the more we can spread SMILE, the better. The more we promote this intergenerational communication, the better the society is going to be.”
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt has been a devoted member of the Loyola community since 1961. Starting her career with Mundelein college, she has served in various capacities over the years in academic and student services. Since her retirement in 1994, Sr. Jean has remained in service with the Loyola Ramblers Men’s Basketball as the team Chaplain. She also graciously advised students in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies since the affiliation of Loyola University and Mundelein College in 1991. Sr. Jean is also the recipient of the Dux Mirabilia Award from Loyola University Chicago President Michael J. Garanzini, S.J. for her extraordinary leadership.