Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Jeannine Swift CoL

Remembrance of the Life of Jeannine Swift CoL

Posted on December 13, 2015, by Loretto Community

Jeannine Swift CoL
Jeannine Swift CoL
Mar. 5, 1935-Dec. 13, 2015

Jeannine Swift, who has been a Loretto member for 62 continuous years, began life as Jeanne Carolyn, the daughter of William Harold and Loretta Knischel Swift. They and their seven children belonged to St. Agnes Parish in Springfield, Mo. Jeanne attended both elementary and high school in the parish, where Sisters of Loretto had been teaching since 1906.

At the conclusion of high school, Jeanne applied to Mother Felicitas to enter the Loretto novitiate. The letters of recommendation written by her teachers and pastor highlight the intelligence and “good sense” which are mentioned so often in later accounts of her life and work. Sister Helen Marie wrote:  “In the four years I have taught Jean Swift, she has proved herself a very promising young lady. … From what she tells me she has had in mind becoming a religious if such was God’s will for four years at least. I have always found her deeply sincere, conscientious and high-principled. She comes from a large family and knows well what self-sacrifice means. Scholastically, she is outstanding. … Jean has been working with the Sisters of Mercy at St. John’s Hospital here in Springfield for the last three years as assistant in the laboratory, and the reports I have gotten … have been very commendable.”

Jeanne entered Loretto Sept. 8, 1953. On May 24, 1954, she received the habit and the name Sister Mary Jeannine, and two years later she made her first vows. Jeannine went from the Novitiate to the new Loretto House of Studies. She completed her undergraduate degree in elementary education and social studies at Webster College in Webster Groves, Mo., in 1958. Jeannine’s first assignment was Bishop Toolen High School in Mobile, Ala., where she taught social studies from 1958 to 1962 and developed lifelong friendships with fellow teacher Kathleen Mary O’Malley and student Sandy Ardoyno.

Jeannine began graduate studies at St. Louis University in early 1963 and taught part time at Nerinx Hall, Loretto Junior College, i.e., the novices at the Motherhouse, and at Webster College. She completed her master’s in economics at Boston College in August 1965 and taught one year at Webster before going on to full-time study for her doctorate in economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which she completed in 1969. During her years in Boston, Jeannine lived with Judy Ford and Helen Werneth in apartments, where they periodically welcomed other Loretto Sisters studying in Boston. Around 1968, the three began communications with Mother General Mary Luke and Provincial Superior Rose Maureen (Helen Sanders) about the possibility of alternative ways of belonging to Loretto.

At the General Assembly of 1970, Jeannine and Judy submitted a proposal, one of several concerning “the extension of membership in the Community of the Sisters of Loretto to persons without canonical vows or promises … [for]persons who are now or who have been Sisters of Loretto … who are committed to service of humanity as expressed in the works, values and ideals of the Loretto Community [and] feel a close personal bond with the Community which they do not wish to break.” The 1970 Assembly did approve the creation of co-membership. Jeannine was one of the first five to apply, along with Judy Ford, Francetta Barbaris, Therese Delich and Mary Schaldenbrand. Jeannine’s dispensation from her canonical vows and the beginning of her co-membership are both dated Dec. 17, 1970.

Jeannine married Don Solar, a fellow economist, and helped to parent his two daughters. They lived on Long Island, N.Y., for more than 44 years. For many years their house in Hempstead, N.Y., served as the gathering place for Loretto Community Group 21, which enjoyed homemade soups, the best homemade New York cheesecake available on the island, great conversations and a variety of celebrations. Don and Jeannine had a special interest in Nicaragua and were great supporters of the Quixote Center’s Quest for Peace; they named their dog Sandino. Jeannine’s interest in travel was often related to her ongoing economics research. She traveled to Ghana, Cuba and Nicaragua to better understand a variety of economic systems.

Jeannine had a long career at Hofstra University in New York as both a professor of economics and geography and a university administrator. She published two books on South American economic development. In 1991 she edited a book entitled “Dream and Reality: The Modern Black Struggle for Freedom and Equality” that contained a series of essays examining the effects of 30 years of desegregation and civil rights. Her house was filled with beautiful accolades to her talents as a teacher.

Jeannine suffered for many years with the Fragile X Syndrome which brought on Parkinson-like tremors and balance problems. With typical Jeannine courage, she found compensating strategies to deal with the symptoms. Along with several members of her family, she participated in a Fragile X research study in California.

Jeannine was an active and loving part of Loretto her entire adult life. She served on Long Range Financial Planning committees, the Investment Committee, the Mission Fund Distribution Board of the early 1990s and on the Forum for the first six years of its existence, 2000-2006. Kathy Wright, a member of Community Group 21, wrote:  “Jeannine was a voracious reader who brought a well-informed, analytical and thoughtful, no-nonsense presence to all of her work. She was deeply committed to Loretto, its values, mission and long-term well-being. She had an effective way to challenge faulty or incomplete thinking and help others to see all the factors involved in a complex decision.”

Jeannine Swift died with family members by her side at the retirement village where her husband Don had died only a few months earlier. She recently had been visited by her fellow pioneers in Co-membership, Helen Werneth Walsh and Judy Ford Wynne, and by companions from Community Group 21. Many Loretto members have expressed gratitude for Jeannine’s lifelong faithfulness and thank God for the “close personal bond with the Community” which Jeannine forged for herself and made possible for so many others.

— By Eleanor Craig SL


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  1. Avatar Cathy Trione Gontar on January 16, 2016 at 12:00 am

    Jeannine was so important to me in my life. She taught me history in Mobile in 1961. She was brilliant. My life would have been so impoverished without her.

  2. Avatar Marianne Novak Houston, CoL on November 2, 2020 at 3:25 pm

    Dear Jeannine, beloved friend and classmate in the 1953 class of Loretto postulants. We lived and learned together , being “seniority partners” … this sisterly friendship was (and is) one of the joys of my life. A woman for all ages, she lives on forever in the lives of all she touched. Jean was full of an enormous love and an iuncompromising fidelity and honesty. We loved her…

    • Avatar Loretto Community on November 2, 2020 at 4:21 pm

      Thank you, Marianne, for offering your beautiful remembrance of Jeannine.

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