In the final moments of March 29, at 11:25 PM, our Sister Donna DeMange slipped peacefully from her room in St. Clare Hall to the waiting arms of our God. S. Donna appeared close to death while at Mercy West Hospital in January. At that time, she declared her readiness to move on to heaven. But when her condition improved, Donna chose to return to the Motherhouse for her final days. Her remaining time was spent in quiet prayer and visiting with family and friends. Undoubtedly, when Sister Death approached at last, Donna was glad to hear God finally say, “It’s time for you to come home.”
Madonna Louise DeMange, known to all as Donna, was born in Dayton, OH as the first of four children to Ralph and Rose Marie DeMange. She was proud of her family connections and held fond memories of her upbringing with younger siblings Judy, Bill, and Tom and of her home parish, Our Lady of Mercy. There she attended grade school and encountered the Oldenburg Franciscan Sisters. Those early exchanges left an indelible mark on Donna.
Donna recalled that “The desire to be a Franciscan Sister was always there.” Early on, Donna helped S. Gerald Gaynor in the first grade classroom and assisted S. Dominica Doyle in the sacristy. Her favorite teachers included S. Dominica and S. Lavonne Long. Her high school years found her at the Academy of the Immaculate Conception (now Oldenburg Academy) as an aspirant. For her junior year, however, she decided to attend Julienne High School in Dayton. There followed a time of discernment where Donna considered returning to the aspirancy and entering the Community as a postulant on its traditional date of February 2.
Ultimately, Donna did return to the aspirancy for her senior year, but entered the Community late— on February 11, 1955. This delay was not due to indecision on Donna’s part, but was necessitated by the birth of her youngest brother, Tom. There were some who believed that Donna would remain at home, not wanting to leave her baby brother. Other factors, too, made her postulant entry troublesome, among them the heavy snowfall that day. But arrive she did—to everyone’s surprise. Donna joined the newest Community members and instantly gained 32 lifetime friends. Together, her class, known affectionately as “the Senators”, grew in Franciscanism and the spirit of prayer.
Life “on mission” began for Donna at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in New Albany, IN. There, she met the challenges of both teaching first grade and playing the organ at liturgies. Over the next 23 years, Donna taught every grade level in a total of 10 schools. In addition, she served as principal at St. Peter’s in Chillicothe, OH. For Donna, teaching was a valued apostolic work. She especially loved teaching little ones and enjoyed watching them “unlock” words by sounding them out.
Donna’s favorite dream was “to see faraway places”. While teaching fifth grade at St. James, White Oak, one of her students entered a Scholastic Magazine contest. What a surprise when he won first prize! Donna was delighted. The young student, his parents, Donna, and her cousin spent an exciting week in Portugal, as a result. She also had the opportunity to be a volunteer teacher for the seven week “Summer of Love” program in San Francisco’s inner city for two years. Excursions in colorful San Francisco were truly rewarding to her.
The time came for Donna to choose a “second career”. Upon completion of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) classes, Donna began 33 years of ministry as a hospital chaplain, primarily at Providence Hospital, Cincinnati. In this new role, she worked both as chaplain and counselor. Her ministry included facilitating Grief Group sessions. The support groups which followed were a source of strength for many in the grieving process. With the construction of a new hospital and the subsequent reduction in the number of chaplains, the time came for Donna to retire and come to the Motherhouse. Though she noted, “Transitions are difficult”, Donna found a variety of new activities to engage her energies there and took advantage of many spiritual opportunities. Utilizing her well-honed skills, Donna found visits to St. Clare Hall to be life-giving for herself and appreciated by the Sisters. In more recent times, Donna took part in exercise classes in the Wellness Center and found the physical activity to be beneficial.
We extend our sympathy to Donna’s sister, Judy, her brother, Tom, her extended family and friends, and members of her “Senators” class. We offer thanks to our nursing and pastoral staff, who cared for Donna especially during her final days.
S. Annette Grisley
For the General Council