When Sister Jane Eschweiler, SDS celebrated her 40th Jubilee in 2008, she said, “My vows are more relevant than ever as a witness of alternative values in our world that tends towards greed and violence.” Her words still ring true even after her departure from earth.
Sr. Jane was a Milwaukee native taught by Salvatorian Sisters at Mother of Good Counsel Grade School and Divine Savior High School. “The Sisters were my role models, and I felt called to prayer and service in community at a very early age. I also had three aunts who were Franciscans and three uncles who were priests in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.” Reflecting upon her call to religious life, Sister Jane said, “The prayer life, community living, and apostolate of this order have attracted me since the lower grades.”
Jane Eschweiler was born June 22, 1947, one of two daughters born to Gilbert and Teresa Eschweiler in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. On September 12, 1965, Jane entered the SDS community and the novitiate a year later. She professed her first vows on August 13, 1968.
In 1970, Sr. Jane began her ministry as an English teacher at Divine Savior High School and several other Milwaukee schools. Shortly thereafter, she elected to assist at a medical clinic in rural Mississippi, serving as receptionist, insurance clerk, and account-keeper. During this time, Sister Jane also engaged in prison ministry at Parchman State Penitentiary. Here she first began to preach and lead prayer services. From there she went on to teach in a four-room school for African American youth. While amongst the poor, she served as a Resident Pastoral Minister. After serving faithfully in Mississippi, she went on to teach high school students in South Chicago.
During the late 1980s, Sr. Jane followed her growing desire to teach the Word. Retracing her steps, she returned to Mississippi and tended two small parishes in great need of pastoral and administrative leadership. Sr. Jane shared in her autobiography that this was where her heart longed to be. While in Mississippi, she preached, led Eucharistic services, composed parish bulletins, engaged with leaders of other Christian faiths, shared hospital chaplaincy, and conducted extensive pastoral work.
In 1990, she moved back to the Midwest and served for five years on the Pastoral Team at St. Andrew Parish in Michigan. While at St. Andrew’s, she served on the Diocesan Ecumenical Commission and the Diocesan Task Force on Adult Faith Formation. To better serve in these ministries, she studied extensively and graduated from Loyola University in Chicago with a master’s degree in pastoral studies in 1996. It was during her studies that Sister Jane wrote and published her first book entitled: Endless Connections: Taking God’s Word to Heart. This was a book of her very own homilies. Her other publications include a book entitled, Seven Women to Nurture Spiritual Renewal: An Accompanied Adventure, as well as a litany of journal articles and newsletter contributions.
Over the next 20 years, Sr. Jane would serve faithfully in many roles. In 1996, she was elected to the North American Provincial Team and returned to parish pastoral work at Michigan’s Sacred Heart Parish in 2000. Three years later, she was asked to move to Tucson and join a collaborative ministry called the Jordan Ministry Team.
Many people know Sr. Jane from her 12 years on the Jordan Ministry Team (JMT). Traveling to schools and parishes in the sprawling Diocese of Tucson, she led catechist certification classes, retreats and workshops to train the laity for ministry. Sr. Jane called Jordan Ministry “an investment in the future of our Church.” She would go on to become Director of the Jordan Ministry Team in 2005 and continued in this role until 2013. Her time with JMT greatly broadened her understanding of Salvatorians globally and culminated in her leading religious retreats in India and teaching English in Tanzania.
Sister Jane retired from Jordan Ministry in 2016, and assembled a variety of part-time teaching, writing, and pastoral ministries to fill her days. Over the next several years, she continued to do spiritual direction, conducted worship services at prisons, participated in the permanent deacon formation program, and volunteered with the adult formation program in her parish. In October 2021, Sister Jane returned to Milwaukee to receive additional healthcare. While living at the Salvatorian Sisters Residence, she resumed her ministries of spiritual direction, worship, and leading prayer services and discussion groups.
Sister Jane died peacefully on June 9, 2022, with her niece, Deb Cassel, at her bedside. The Sisters from Salvatorian Sisters Residence gathered in her room, along with Sister Beverly Heitke, Provincial Leader, and Jane Gamez, RN. They sang and prayed as Jane made her journey home to God. Her beloved uncle, Father Ed Eschweiler, her friend, Kathy Sheehan, and Sister Virginia Honish also joined the group.
Sister Jane is survived by her sister, Marge Grosskreuz; nieces and nephews, Deb Cassel, Daniel Grosskreuz, Dave Scobie, and Denise Scobie; and her uncle, Father Ed Eschweiler.