Called to serve. Sister Debra Breese took those words to heart throughout her nine years professed as a Salvatorian Sister. “Being brother and sister to each other is what Jesus wants us to do. This relationship means doing what you can to make the world and the people in it better.”
Sr. Debra was born Debra Jean Wysiadlowski on August 20, 1955 to Kenneth and Audrey (Gorecki) Wysiadlowski in Milwaukee. She attended Milwaukee’s Kagel Elementary School and South Division High School, and then earned an associate certificate in early childhood education at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Her marriage to Thomas Breese ended in annulment, but it blessed her with two daughters, Stephanie and Wendolyn. Before entering the SDS Community, Debra lived with her daughters in Milwaukee and worked in child day care and customer service.
Debra’s Salvatorian journey began in October 2008 when she entered the SDS novitiate in Milwaukee. She made her first vows on August 15, 2011, and pronounced her perpetual vows on August 13, 2017. In answering the call to religious life, Sr. Debra said, “I have felt a deep peace in my daily life—that used to be rare for a busy mom!”
In 2012, Sr. Debra found a ministry she loved with her whole heart at Divine Savior Healthcare (DSH) in Portage, Wis. There, she served as a recreation rehabilitation aide for the DSH Tivoli facility. The legacy of the first Salvatorian Sisters who came to the U.S. to provide in-home care for elders inspired Sr. Debra’s ministry at Tivoli. She dedicated herself to learning how dementia affects the residents she cared for in the assisted living center.
Reflecting on her time as a Salvatorian Sister, Sr. Debra said, “When I think about my vocation, what my mind sees are simply the words Jesus said to us: ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve’ (Mark 10:45). My vocation speaks of love, service, and faith.” Sr. Debra was preceded in death by her parents, Kenneth and Audrey Wysiadlowski. She is survived by her daughters, Stephanie and Wendy, her brother Keith Wysiadlowski, sister Pamela Wolter and the Salvatorian Family. A private service for Sr. Debra took place on April 21 in Milwaukee.