Eulogy for Sister Christine Doman: Jan. 9, 1938-March 17, 2017
March 17, 2017 by Sarah Jenkins
VIGIL: March 19, 2017, at the Nazareth Motherhouse
EULOGIST: Sister Marcia Allen
Live out your whole life with one desire only – to be what God desires you to be…
— Maxim 73
Christine Doman’s life review reflects this maxim with amazing clarity. She lived her whole life with passion and effectiveness, an inclusive worldview that was at once idealistic and realistic. She never saw anyone whom she couldn’t help and she never overlooked anyone. She was prevailed upon by many – religious superiors, clergy, school superintendents, and families in need to the extent that she often felt over-extended but never exhausted by the labor of love that she had for students, parents, immigrants and school systems and, eventually, the congregation itself in her roles of leadership, first as Executive Councilor/Regional Coordinator and then as President, and in the end given totally to refugees and prisoners. This, in a nutshell, is a portrait of this excellent apostolic woman and Sister of St. Joseph.
Barbara Jene Doman was born at home on Jan. 9, 1938, the first of two children, to Hazel Williams and Paul Eugene Doman. At the time her father was working in the fruit farming industry in Grand Junction, Colorado. Two years later her brother, Charles, was born. Her family moved frequently throughout her early years. From Colorado they went to Lusk, Wyoming; then on to Grand Island, Nebraska. In Grand Island, her father worked in the Ammunitions Depot and later was sent to Pennsylvania where he learned to be a radio technician. In the meantime, her mother worked at the Depot making bombs. She started school in Grand Island walking a mile each way to and from school as a kindergartner. Of this experience she said: “I was so bundled up that I could hardly walk in my leggings.” She consented to the leggings because she didn’t want to wear the long brown stockings that were the thing in those days.
From Grand Island, they went back to Lusk, Wyo., with a brief interval in Laramie, and then back to Grand Island. By the fourth grade she was in Rangley, Colo., where her dad worked in the oil fields. About these days she says that everyone was poor and they “all made the best of it.” There was no church in the town so the school was used for services. Her aunt had married a Catholic and she also joined the Church, so they all went with her aunt and uncle to Mass each week. Earlier she had been sent to the Presbyterian Sunday School but the family didn’t actually belong to any church.
By 1948 the family was back in Grand Island. Because of where they lived she and her brother had to stay at a Children’s Home after school until their father picked them up. She says in her life review that it was here that she learned about children who were much worse off than she. She helped in the baby nursery. She felt lucky to have a family.
In the winter of 1949, a fellow worker invited her father to take instructions in the Catholic Church. What followed was that her mother also took instructions. The family was baptized in June of 1950. It was the Holy Year and they were among 50 people who were baptized. Her family attended the new Catholic parish that was just being established, Blessed Sacrament. She and her brother took catechism lessons during vacation school from the Sisters of St. Joseph. They were scheduled to make their first communion at the end of the vacation school. However, while singing in the choir one Sunday, she saw her parents going to communion and she ran downstairs to receive with them. Her brother saw her in line so he got in line too. This wasn’t exactly the plan and the two had to go to Father Hayden to see what was to be done with the two of them. As you might guess, Father Hayden took the news benignly and they were allowed to make a formal appearance with the rest of the class the following Sunday.
From then on, she and her brother attended St. Mary’s grade and high schools. It was there that she got her first part-time job: secretary to Father Hayden who was chancellor and editor of the diocesan newspaper. She and a companion did typing and newspaper articles after school.
During these years she found herself attracted in special ways to God. She attended daily mass and evening devotions. She liked to just stop in church for quiet moments with God. On these occasions, she felt God fill her heart with great joy and happiness that she did not find in any other part of her life. She said of these experiences: “I would beg Him to never let anything stand in the way of my vocation if that was what he wanted.” Of their new found Catholic identity she says that “the lively Church life of the Cathedral kept our family busy and since we lived only two blocks from the church we would frequently go to the devotions as a family.”
The attraction of a vocation to religious life grew in her and on Sept. 8, 1956, she entered the Sisters of St. Joseph in Concordia. Her mother was very happy but her father was upset. Eventually, her father seemed to come around to her being a member of the community. She belonged to a group of 9 postulants, three of whom remained through the tumultuous years of the 1960’s and ‘70’s: Sisters Marie Carmel Garcia and Paulette Hake. She made first vows on March 19, 1958, and final profession on March 19, 1961. Her profession group was the first to be sent to Marymount College to the “House of Studies.” She spent one year there and then began teaching.
Her assignments as a teacher began after her year at Marymount. She began at St. Joseph and St. Anne’s in Chicago in fifth grade. Since the Holy Angel’s school fire had occurred the year before, the basement classrooms were closed so she taught in half-day shifts; hers was in the afternoon. From Chicago she went to Boonville, Mo., as principal. After a semester at Marymount to finish her degree – a bachelor’s in History, she was assigned to Grand Island. This pleased her no end. But this pleasure was short-lived. She was sent to St. Xavier’s in Junction City so that she could attend graduate school at K-State while she taught in Junction City. She graduated from K-State with a Master’s Degree in Education in 1967. From there she went to Oakley as principal and junior high teacher. During her Oakley years she served on the Education Commission and in 1970, Sister Christella asked her to be Director of Educational Planning for the community. This created the need to leave teaching.
She moved to Salina and set up office there. She was given part of the reception room in the Catholic Charities Office on Ninth Street. In this tiny space she kept all the records and documents from all the schools in the diocese as well as the documents of the Sisters where she kept them updated. She worked part time for the diocese and part time for the community. She visited all of the schools in the diocese and all of the Sisters in schools where they taught. At the same time, she was asked to be principal of the St. Mary’s School in Salina. This proved to be too much so she resigned after one year.
In 1971, the community initiated the practice of Open Placement. Each Sister was responsible for interviewing for her position under the direction of the community. At this point she was appointed to serve on the Diocesan Board of Education, a position she held for fifteen years. In 1972 she was appointed Director of Personnel for the Community. She helped Sisters seek new employment and work out negotiations and problems where they served. During the 10 years she was Director of Diocesan Education she was also asked to be the principal of Sacred Heart Grade and Junior High School. She loved teaching but a hardship during this time was the constant challenge to find housing for the small community with whom she lived. Their landlords were inconsistent in their promises to not sell their properties.
Highlights of these years included a directed retreat at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, one at Manna House of Prayer, and the month-long Life Institute in Kalamazoo, Michigan. This latter was an intensive study of the spirituality and spirit of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Besides the program, the participants were able to listen to the translators of the primitive documents who also lived and worked on the campus as well as the sisters writing the Core Constitution who were also working there at the time. She reveled in the day classes and the evening fun.
In 1980 Father Merlin Kieffer was made the new Superintendent of the Diocesan schools. He wanted to be the Director of Education but Christine did not want to trade positions so she resigned from her position. She continued to teach and serve on various community committees. In the summer of 1983 she, with the community, sponsored a summer migrant program in Salina. The novices were invited as part of their ministry program. Most of the students were Mexican or Vietnamese. Several Sisters volunteered to assist her along with the novices. The St. Joseph Foundation and Sacred Heart Parish, Salina, helped finance the six-week project. This program was so successful that the adults in it asked for its continuance during the year. Christine began evening classes three nights a week for the rest of the year. To these classes came Mexicans, Vietnamese, Puerto Ricans and Czechoslovakians, all wanting to learn English and find work.
Christine summed up her work through the 1980’s in Salina in the following words (taken from her Life Review):
“Through these years I have shared their joys of feasts and sorrows of death and illness in their homes. Sharing with the migrants and aliens deepened my faith life and gave me a better understanding of poverty, the dignity of people and the beauty of their gracious hospitality, even in the midst of loneliness for their homeland and the poverty of beginning a new way of life in a culture so foreign to them.
“I have been called to take a mother to have her baby in the middle of the night; waited out…the tragedy of watching her die, transporting her in the arms of her father to the mortuary in Salina on a cold November night, and the sad burial of her the next day. I’ve danced at their weddings and enjoyed the feasts of their ancestors and the Chinese New Year. I’ve sat on the floor with newspapers as a tablecloth because the group was too large for the table and everyone had to be a part of the celebration together. I’ve come to learn a few Vietnamese words and I know how to prepare rice their way…. I’ve come to respect their elders as they do, gone to court with them to interpret for them…; I’ve helped to get a boy out of jail; I’ve gone to the probation officers with two young boys who got into a street fight because of name calling; I provided transportation to those who needed it for job interviews; I’ve dealt with all levels at the Job Service Office. I’ve spent hours at health clinics, learned about the WIC Program and welfare practices. I’ve sat at interviews and filled out dozens of forms; I’ve spent hours in the hospital with people with unknown health problems or emergency cases to help interpret for the nurses and doctors. I’ve taught people the value of going to sales and particularly to garage sales; I’ve collected food, clothing and furniture for the poor; I’ve stored it at the rectory and school and many generous people have helped to provide blankets and coats for the needy.”
In 1991, Christine was elected to the Congregation’s Executive Council as Regional Coordinator and then in 1995 as President. These elections caused her to leave ministries very dear to her heart. But she applied the same passion that had led her in the preceding years to her years in service to the community. She helped Sisters discern their ministries and retirement, the letting-go sacrifices of “dear people to come home.” During these years the Council began long range planning for eldercare. Eventually, the Council decided to build onto the Motherhouse Stafford Hall over the swimming pool areas. Sisters from St. Mary’s and other floors at the Motherhouse moved into the new wing. St. Mary’s Convent was closed; an auction was held and the property was put up for sale. During her term the St. Mary’s property in Silver City, NM was also put up for sale; however, no sale was completed. Highlights of her time in office were two visits to Brazil. She was deeply inspired by her time with the Sisters there. Shortly into her term as President, Sister Veronica Roy, one of the Councilors, was killed in a car accident on her way back from visiting Sisters in Salina. Because having fewer members on the leadership team had already been considered, the Executive Board decided to keep a team of four during the rest of this term of office. During these years she continued her friendship with her many Vietnamese families. At the same time, she wrote endless letters to congress people in the Kansas and National legislatures. She addressed such issues as the rights of immigrants and immigration reform, controlling US foreign military sales; stays of execution and abolition of the death penalty. She was also a member of the LCWR Region XIII planning committee for integration of the proceedings of the 1995 Synod on Consecrated Life. .
Christine left office in 1999 and her plans for a sabbatical in San Antonio to learn Spanish were interrupted by family crises. She moved instead to Highland, California to be near her family and also responded to a plea to take on a principalship for a school that closed within a year. Then she took a position at St. Anthony’s school in San Bernadino as seventh-grade teacher. About this time of continuous change she said: “It seemed to be that disruption followed me in every avenue of my life through these years. But God helped me through it all and I met many wonderful friends through these hard years of life’s realities!! — on mission in the most unusual and unsuspecting circumstances where all I could be was ‘present’.”
In 2008, Christine found stability in El Paso at our home on Grandview Avenue. She worked in the diocesan Peace and Justice Office as Restorative Justice Ministry Director. Her ministry included the opportunity to prepare ministers through the Tepeyac Institute who were to serve the people incarcerated in the 5 state or federal prisons in the El Paso Diocese, as well as the juvenile detention center. They also served those released from the systems. This ministry involved the formation of strong faith communities that walked with the persons in their parish who had been released from prison. Her letters attest to her relish for this ministry. (I can attest to this also from firsthand experience as a visitor to one of her training sessions.) While in El Paso, she also volunteered with the various agencies and groups who worked with the immigrant population as well as kept the Grandview home as a place to live for volunteers at Annunciation House. During this time she was Director of the Congregation’s Shared Ministry Commission and a member of the Justice and Peace Advisory Board.
By 2014 it was evident that her health was failing and it was necessary for her to resign her positions and return to the Motherhouse. Soon after, she was diagnosed with lung cancer which eventually took her life. She died at the Nazareth Motherhouse on March 17, 2017.
We will remember her for her totally unselfish giving to those in need and eventually to those here with whom she lived; her ability to befriend easily and faithfully; her easy conversation ability; her passion and efforts for justice; and finally, but not least, her amazing and unfailing sense of humor and ready wit in awful circumstances and personal suffering. Christine was an idealist with an impeccable sense of realism and matter-of-fact practical ability to meet needs where she found them. Her heart led her unfailingly. For all this, and for the simply splendid person she was, we shall miss her. Christine, for your almost 60 years of presence among us, your community, and your continuous generosity toward your family through 79 years, we thank you.
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Memorials for Sister Christine Doman may be given to the Sisters of St. Joseph Health Care/Retirement Fund or the Apostolic Works of the Sisters; P.O Box 279, Concordia KS 66901. To make an online donation in Sister Christine’s memory, click on the button below: