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Sister Thomas Jeanne Doriot

I chose for our reading this evening one of Sister Thomas Jeanne’s Christmas poems, said Sister Ann Casper in her commentary for Sister Thomas Jeanne Doriot, who passed away on Monday, Dec. 19, 2022, at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. She was 85-years-old and had been a Sister of Providence for 62 years.

Sister Ann continued: It’s certainly timely and will also provide a link to her Mass of Christian burial.

Christmas Consecration

A sound of tinkling, golden bells,

Tiptoe softly back, back

Through time …

                                almost to eternity.

Move closer to the queenly woman

in a worn cloak of blue. See?

She offers you the Babe to hold …

gently now.

                                In your arms

                                rests the Boundless One,

                                wrapped in warm humanity,

                                shivering a little

                                as he wakens

                                to a stranger’s gaze.

                                Eyes that before had looked

                                down through space

                                to earth below

                                now look up at you

                                in silent, searching trust …

                                Hands that fashioned

                                the universe, now,

                                baby-soft, grasp

                                your own timid finger …

                                And through the white wool’s

                                folds, you feel

                                his restless, untried feet

                                against you.

His mother’s urgent whisper

then echoes down to you

through time …

                                “This is my body,             

                                     This is my blood.”

Margaret Ann Doriot, or Maggie or TJ, as she was known to some, was born Oct. 20, 1937, in Fort Wayne, Ind., to Jules and Margaret McCarthy Doriot. She joined her only sibling, who later became the Rev. Thomas Doriot. He was 13 years her senior, yet they grew very close, especially in his retirement years, when he moved to Sacramento to be close to his “little sister’s” ministry in the diocese and to assist as a so-called “supply priest.” When his health began to fail and he moved to a care facility two years before his death in 2013, Thomas Jeanne spoke and prayed with him every night.

Sister Thomas Jeanne entered the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence on Feb. 2, 1960. She made her first profession in 1962 and perpetual profession in 1967, both on August 15. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and later a master’s degree with a concentration in creative writing from Indiana University. She wrote her thesis on Thomas Merton and remained his ardent disciple ever after, writing many poems with him or Gethsemani as the topic. Her poems were published extensively in religious magazines, such as America, Sisters Today, The Bible Today and in The Way, a Franciscan Quarterly and in the Cistercian Studies Quarterly. She wrote at one time, “Poetry allows me in some instances to cope with others and to celebrate reality in others.” Thomas Jeanne also wrote book reviews of such noted authors as Joan Chittister, Walter Burghardt, Merton and Basil Pennington.

Sister Thomas Jeanne Doriot at prayer

TJ’s initial ministries were in education, teaching in two high schools in Indiana and Illinois and later teaching English as a second language in California for one year. In 1969, she turned to her first love, journalism, ministering at a publication in Evanston called Pioneer Press, and later working for the News Sentinel in Fort Wayne as education editor, and then in public relations at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for three years and associate editor of the diocese of Sacramento newspaper, The Catholic Herald. She returned to the educational field briefly when she served as director of religious education in the 1990s.

These journalism positions required her writing many press releases. In some releases that I read, she seemed to add a creative flourish whenever she could. For example, when reporting on a possible school closure at Central Catholic, Fort Wayne, she wrote, “While detractors may choose to feed on rumors of Central Catholic High School’s approaching demise, the ship’s co-captains face the new school year with more seaworthy hopes.”

Her active ministry years from 1979 to 2015 were extremely varied, having as common threads serving with Sister Adrian Marie Conrad, building relationships with being present to whatever needs presented themselves. Some more long-term ministries included: Associate Director of Regina Hall in Henderson, Nev., a group home helping young girls cope with personal, family and social problems; ministering as pastoral associate at Guardian Angel Cathedral in Las Vegas, each of those ministries for four years. She served in Los Angeles as administrative assistant for the Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters for nearly six years. Her final ministry years were in Santa Monica which she served in various roles for the St. John Health Center and its Foundation. She and Adrian Marie returned to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in 2019 and resided in health care.

TJ offered this response to the question, “How do you think you are affecting the lives of those with whom and to whom you minister?”

“Hopefully, in the eyes of God, I have some positive effect in those whose lives intersect with mine. In turn, these people are continuous examples of devotion and dedication to their work and their families,” she said.

One person who attests to TJ’s positive influence in her life is her classmate and dear friend from college, Linda Keats Renzi, who wrote, “I first met Maggie when I was a freshman (1956 at SMWC) and we have been friends since then. I will miss her letters and notes filled with her poetry and pictures of turtles (we both loved turtles) and also sharing ideas about Thomas Merton and Emily Dickinson. Being invited to her Golden Jubilee was such an honor for my husband and me. Maggie was such a gentle person.”

A letter to the editor when TJ and Adrian Marie left their ministry in the Las Vegas Valley noted that, “They could always be found after Mass giving advice and counsel to those in need. … The many people that they have helped will always remember their love and kindness which was freely given to everyone.”

Mother Theodore was often the subject of Thomas Jeanne’s poems. We can only imagine TJ’s joy at being welcomed to heaven by one about whom she wrote in a poem entitled “The Blessing Time.”

And now the blessed time, my daughters,

now: I wake, I walk, with your Sisters

who, facing death, have wakened to our God –

O blessed, Providential time of passion, risk

and quiet miracle!

Rest forever now in that providential peace, TJ!

Funeral services for Sister Thomas Jeanne took place on Dec. 28-29, in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

A Wake took place from 2:30-4:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Dec. 28, with Vesper Services at 4:30 p.m.

Another Wake took place from 9:30-11 a.m., on Thursday, Dec. 29, with Mass of Christian Burial taking place at 11 a.m., on Thursday, Dec. 29.

Memorial contributions may be made in honor of Sister Thomas Jeanne to the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

We welcome you to share your memories of Sister Thomas Jeanne in the comment section below.

Sister Thomas Jeanne Doriot

Complete Ministry

In Indiana: Teacher, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1962-64); Teacher, Chartrand High School, Indianapolis (1966-69); Education Editor, The News Sentinel, Fort Wayne (1971-72); Public Relations/Journalism, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (1972-75); Prayer, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods (2019-2022).

In Illinois: Teacher, Marywood, Evanston (1964-66); Journalist, Pioneer Press, Evanston (1969-71).

In California: Teacher, Marywood, Orange (1978-79); Associate Editor of Catholic Herald, Sacramento (1987-92); Director of Health Services/Director of Religious Education, Bakersfield Catholic Charities, San Clemente Mission, Bakersfield (1992); Director of Religious Education, San Clemente Mission, Bakersfield (1993-97); Paralegal, Archdiocesan Tribunal of Los Angeles (1998-99); Administrative Assistant to Executive Director, Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters, Los Angeles (1999-2005); Administrative Associate, Saint John Health Center Foundation, Santa Monica (2006-09); Outreach Ministry, Providence St. John Health Center, Santa Monica (2010-15); Residential Services, Los Angeles (2015-19).

In Nevada: Associate Director, Home for Juvenile Girls, Nevada Catholic Welfare Bureau, Henderson (1979-83); Pastoral Associate, Guardian Angel Cathedral, Las Vegas (1983-87).

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