sister jane edward schilling

October 8, 1930 - September 13, 2017

Dedicated, hard-working, visionary

Jane Schilling had a passion for the poor; [Her] strong sense of hope and desire for justice were evident to all those who knew her.” —Sister Audrey Goebel

Born on the island of Minocqua, Wisconsin, on October 8, 1930, Nancy Mary Schilling was the first of the five children of Dr. Lyle and Rosalie (Wolk) Schilling. (A brother and three sisters completed the family.)  Nancy attended local schools through her second year of high school. Thinking that she might become a dentist, she realized her small school could not offer a good background in science. Two of her aunts, teachers in Green Bay, mentioned that there was a really good high school there. Nancy lived with them for two years in order to attend St. Joseph Academy—and entered the Sisters of St. Joseph on September 15, 1948. Upon receiving the habit on March 19, 1949, she was given the name Sister Jane Edward, after her brother and a sister. She received a bachelor’s degree in history/social studies from Fontbonne College (1961) and a master’s in ancient history from Loyola University of Chicago (1966).                 

Sister Jane taught on the elementary level at St. Rita in St. Louis (1951). She was both teacher and principal at St. Matthew the Apostle in St. Louis (1958) and Holy Angels in Indianapolis, Indiana (1964). 

In Indianapolis, Sister Jane met Fr. Boniface Hardin, O.S.B. They opened Martin Center (1970) to provide opportunities for low-income, minority and adult learners to attend school. The school was founded in honor of two Martins—the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and St. Martin de Porres, the first bi-racial Catholic saint (Peru, 16th and 17th centuries). Over time, Martin Center evolved into Martin College (1977) and then Martin University (1990). Sister Jane ministered at Martin for over 40 years serving in several important roles: associate director (1970), evaluator (1979), executive director (1981), academic dean and associate director (1983), vice president of academic affairs (1990), and vice president emeritus and historian (2008-2012). She also served as executive director for the Sickle Cell Center in Indianapolis (1979-1989).

 “… at Holy Angels I became a student of Sister Jane. She was so informed about and aware of the need for profound change within so many systems in our society, especially in regard to black-white relations.” —Sister Pat Quinn

In the early ’70s, while attending a six-week program at Martin Center, Sister Nancy Corcoran lived with Sister Jane:

The program was intensive and at the end, those of us who were white understood that racism is in the air we breathe. We had not chosen to be racist but we certainly had been programmed since birth to believe in white supremacy. This was a very painful experience for all of us. [Jane’s] confidence in my ability to articulate the reality I now perceived was a watershed event in my life … I am grateful to Jane for her gifts of intelligence, her passion for truth, her courage in challenging our status quo, and her ability to follow the teachings of Jesus no matter the cost.

Associate Van Farrington met S. Jane Edward when she arrived in St. Louis to live at Nazareth in 2012.

Upon meeting me, she thought I was her old friend Clara. She immediately went into storytelling mode … During some racial unrest in Indianapolis, she was walking down the street with several African-American women … she was instructed by some “roustabouts” (her words) to leave them and walk on the other side of the street. Fearing harm would come to her friends, she obliged. After crossing the street and looking back at her friends, she said, ‘I took exactly three steps, gathered my courage, lifted my head and crossed back over and continued the journey with my friends. I asked her if she was afraid and she said, ‘Of course, but I was more afraid that my good friends thought that I had abandoned them.’

Rest in peace, Jane.

By Sister Helen Oates

 

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