Rev. Michael Schweifler, O.S.A. (1955 - 2009)
Rev. Michael Schweifler, O.S.A. entered eternal life on July 26, 2009, after a four-year struggle to regain his health and strength following heart replacement surgery in 2005.
Michael Schweifler was born in 1955 in Grand Haven, Michigan to Peter and Ruth Schweifler. He was baptized in 1955 at St. Patrick Church, Grand Haven. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1966 at the same church.
In 1969, Michael completed his elementary education at St. Patrick School, Grand Haven. He then entered the Augustinian minor seminary program at St. Augustine Seminary, Holland, Michigan, where he earned his high school diploma in 1973. He continued in the Augustinian Pre-Novitiate Program at Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, earning a B.A. in History in 1977.
On September 1, 1977, Michael was received into the Augustinian Novitiate. He professed simple (temporary) vows in the Order of St. Augustine on September 2, 1978 and solemn (permanent) vows on December 31, 1982.
From 1978 to 1980, Michael resided at St. John Stone Friary, Chicago, Illinois, and pursued theological studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago. He then taught at St. Rita High School, Chicago, in 1980 and 1981. He returned to St. John Stone Friary in 1981 to complete his theological studies. Michael did his Diaconate Internship at St. Joseph Parish, Pekin, Illinois, in 1983 and 1984. He earned an M. Div. from Catholic Theological Union in 1984, and was ordained a priest on May 11, 1984.
Father Schweifler taught at Mendel Catholic High School, Chicago, from 1984 to 1987. He was then assigned from 1987 to 1990 as Associate Pastor of St. Gregory Parish, Cambridge, Ontario. After this, he joined the faculty of Cascia Hall, Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1990, teaching there until 2001. In addition to this, he was named Prior of the Augustinian Community there in 1995 and Campus Minister of the school in 1999.
Besides his duties at Cascia Hall, Father Schweifler also served as Administrator of three Parishes: St. Joseph, Cleveland, Oklahoma (1993); St. John, Pawnee, Oklahoma (1993); and St. Vincent, Loweta, Oklahoma (1998). In 2001, he was named Associate Pastor of St. Jude Parish, New Lenox, Illinois, a position which he held until the time of his death.
For many years, Father Schweifler had experienced heart problems. He underwent a heart transplant on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005. His recovery was slow, with several setbacks, but he continued to improve and was able to resume some ministries on a limited basis. However, at the end of May 2009, he developed a serious infection, broke a leg, and suffered a heart attack. He was hospitalized for treatment, but never recovered. He died on July 26, 2009 at Loyola Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois.
Father Schweifler is remembered as a good priest and a good Augustinian friar: generous, jovial, fun-loving, energetic, affirming, a man of uncompromising faith and monumental perseverance. He found joy in simplicity as well as the extraordinary in ordinary moments of life. He prayed hard, suffered greatly, and loved much . . . and taught and touched many people in the process. He particularly enjoyed ministry to children, whom he understood and with whom he was able to communicate effectively.
Father Schweifler is buried in the Augustinian plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.
Eulogy for Michael Schweifler, O.S.A.
Given by Michael Loeffler during the Memorial Mass for Michael Schweifler, O.S.A. August 18, 2009 at St. Rita Chapel of Cascia Hall School, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Loeffler was Father Schweifler’s student at Cascia Hall, and is currently a teacher at that school.
In the fall of 1990, two Michaels arrived at Cascia Hall: the Rev. Michael Schweifler and the sixth grader Michael Loeffler. Shortly after my return as a teacher in 2006, I commented to Bro. Jack on a day when the mood was particularly dull and depressed, “This place could really use some Fr. Mike right about now.” It took Fr. Mike’s passing—his altogether too soon passing—for me to realize that he never really left Cascia.
The word “eulogy” comes from the Greek for “to speak well of,” or simply, “good word.” I cannot think of a better word to describe Fr. Mike than one used in his obituary in Sunday’s Tulsa World: jovial. Several days ago, I asked some of my middle school classmates for their memories of Fr. Mike, and almost all were one-liners or funny stories, from the Latin pun "semper ubi sub ubi" (always where under where) to the “happy monk” he would stamp on a particularly good quiz or exam to his near-obsession with Kirstie Alley.
I daresay that most of your memories of Fr. Mike are similar examples of his defining trait: He was filled with joy, and that joy was never held in reserve. Like Augustine, Fr. Mike’s heart was set aflame with passion—passion for everything he did. He didn’t just teach theology; he instilled in his students his own love for his God and his Church. He didn’t just deliver a homily; he preached to the back pew and to the bottom of your soul. He didn’t just sing; he made a joyful noise that made you think Augustine underestimated when he said that singing is praying twice. He loved good food, and he loved his pipe. He loved a good joke, and he loved his Cubs. In fact, was there anything that Fr. Mike only liked? It seems to me that he loved everything… and everyone.
Maybe this explains why God called Fr. Mike home so early, so soon: In the short time he spent with us in this life, Fr. Mike gave more love than many of us can ever hope to give, even with many more years than he had. Augustine tells us to “love and do what you will.” Fr. Mike took these words to heart and put his heart into everything he did and everyone he met. He loved his students; he loved this school. He loved his vocation; he loved his brothers. He loved his Church, and he loved his God, with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. I don’t think for one minute that Fr. Mike’s heart gave out or gave up. It makes more sense to me that his spiritual heart was bigger than his body—bigger than any body—could handle. Nevertheless, he did endure his physical ailments.
Is it any wonder that St. Rita achieved the impossible task of bringing new life, a new heart, to Fr. Mike on an Easter Sunday? Augustine proclaims, “We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song.” I can only imagine the alleluias that Fr. Mike was singing that Easter Sunday, but I have a feeling they were pretty similar to the alleluias he sang here in this very sanctuary, strumming his guitar and praying with the students, teachers, friends, and brother Augustinians whom he loved so much. Every alleluia was special to him because every day was special to him. Although his days were far too few in number, Fr. Mike lived every one of them to the absolute full.
In the fall of 1990, Fr. Mike arrived at Cascia Hall, and his spirit remains here to this day. When you sing a hymn, know that he sings with you. When you celebrate the Eucharist, know that he prays with you. When I teach my students, I know that he stands with me, gently guiding my words. I say it again: Fr. Mike’s spirit remains here to this day in you and in me. Never forget the joy he brought into your life, never hold that joy in reserve, and never lose heart.