Esther Zawacki, SJ

1933 - 2011

Esther was born on the east side of Detroit to Anna and Henry Zawacki. She, her sister Rose and brother Tom remained steadfast to the religious practices and life lessons of their parents: love for study, prayer, hard work and generosity to those in need.

She began kindergarten at Compau School and transferred to St. Albertus in the third grade. She graduated from Dominican High in 1951.

Esther’ young adult years were filled with the joys of learning, friendships, part-time work at the local grocery store and developing her gifts. It was here she excelled in her love of singing, music dancing and drama, eventually starring in her senior play “The Mikada.” Esther and her friends patriotically spent their Friday evenings at St.Ann’s Center in Hamtramck and Dom Polski in Detroit entertaining and dancing with the Polish and American soldiers. Language proved to be no barrier!

Following high school, Esther heard the call to religious life and entered the Felician Sisters in Livonia, MI. She earned a BA from Madonna University, a Masters degree in library science from Rosary College, a license in Practical Nursing from Schoolcraft College and a license in cosmetology.

Initially, Sr. Esther’s ministry was spent in education. She was an exceptional teacher; creative, resourceful, and enthusiastic. There is a tale she used to tell of a day when she was teaching the letters of the alphabet. She was so happy that the children were accomplishing so much. It was just before lunch and she figured they could do one more letter, so she asked, “How about doing one more letter?” The whole class gave a resounding “No!” Her enthusiasm was not appreciated.

 Esther spent many years as a teacher and principal in the Archdiocese of Detroit and the Diocese of Saginaw. She conducted workshops for teachers in reading skills and phonics. She guided and supervised many teachers during their internships.

After years in education, Esther devoted herself to Practical Nursing and Hospice, primarily to senior citizens. She even lived above the local funeral parlor so that she would be available to families as loved ones died.

 Esther walked shoulder to shoulder with senior citizens in her ministry: making meals for them, conducting scripture sharing, baking bread, writing letters, using her cosmetology skills to cut and set hair and especially listening to them.

These gifts were shared with family. She babysat for nieces and nephews. The parents loved to have her come because she made the children clean the house before the parents returned. She made good meals, golobki by the roasterful, loaves of bread, cookies and many other goodies.

In their words, “Aunt Esther was eloquent with words; every year she would prepare a special Christmas message that she’d read after sharing oplatik (Christmas wafer). She was wise and never preachy when she gave advice.”

Esther’s constant openness to God’s call in her life, and her search for honesty and integrity led Esther to join the Servants of Jesus in 1974. In the prolific writing and journaling that she left behind, Esther says, “My Servant years have renewed my understanding of my relationship with God, my spiritual life and my personal growth and development. The opportunities afforded me in ministry have been especially rewarding. With my contacts in parish Christian Service Groups, the St. Vincent de Paul Societies and the Social Justice Committee in my Servant Community, I feel that I have been deeply sensitized and touched many lives. What a privilege it is to bring the compassion of Jesus to the disabled, the homebound, the downtrodden, the oppressed, the forgotten, the neglected and the shunned in society.”

Esther ends one of her personal writings with “I have had many loves in my life and I continue to be open to whatever God may ask of me. Here and now I remember that ‘For those who love God all things work together for good.’”

We commend our Esther to an eternal life of love and joy. We will miss her wisdom and her warmth!


Sr. Paula Mierle and Sr. Jean Marie Wojtas