Brother John Gerard Doran, CSC

August 11, 1921 – February 10, 2019

Brother John Gerard DoranThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother John Gerard Doran, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Br. John died in Austin, Texas, on February 10, 2019. He was in his 72nd year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother John Gerard Doran was born on August 11, 1921 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was the fourth of five children of Simon Francis Doran, a railroad clerk from Kansas City and Lamira Howard Doran, a homemaker from Chenoa, Illinois. John was baptized at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kansas City on August 26, 1921, and was confirmed at St. Francis Xavier Church in Kansas City on May 4, 1929.

John’s family parish was St. Francis Xavier staffed by the Jesuits, and his elementary school was St. Francis Xavier where he regularly met up with Jesuit priests. Naturally, after graduation from elementary school he went to Rockhurst High School which was also run by the Jesuits as a prep school for Rockhurst College which he entered after high school. He matriculated and earned his Bachelor of Science in Philosophy from Rockhurst in 1942 just as the United States entered World War II. John, patriotic as he was, signed up for service in the US Army. Since he had experience as a storeroom attendant working part time while in college, the Army made him a supply sergeant and also asked him to do personnel interviews. This he did for three and a half years until World War II ended and he returned to civilian life.

John was given an honorable discharge from the US Army with a good conduct medal and several other ribbons and distinctions on February 3, 1946. His father had passed away just eight months before his discharge and John now had to consider what to do with the rest of his life. Along the way, he said he had considered the religious life but was not drawn to the Jesuits with whom he had the greatest experience. Later on in life he said he wasn’t sure he could cut it with them.

On the 9th of July of 1946 he made formal application to the Brothers of Holy Cross. In his recommendation, the Dean of Rockhurst College, Father J. J. Higgins, SJ, stated that John was a quiet and reticent sort of person and that his directors should not be deceived into believing him to be moody. John was approved for admission by Brother Donatus Schmitz. In his application John stated that he had no preference for the type of work in which he would be engaged as a Brother.

In September of 1946 he went to Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin where he became a candidate for the Brothers of Holy Cross. He was received as a novice at St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, on February 1, 1947 and made his first profession there on February 2, 1948. He eventually professed his perpetual vows on August 15, 1951, at Sacred Heart Church on the campus of the University of Notre Dame.

Although he entered with a BS from Rockhurst College, he later earned a master’s in English from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in Speech Communication from UCLA in Los Angeles.

Brother John Gerard DoranAfter his first profession of vows, since Brother John had already earned an undergraduate degree, he entered the classroom as a teacher first briefly at Holy Cross School, New Orleans, Louisiana, then at Catholic Central High School, Monroe, Michigan (1949-1952) where he also had duties as athletic director and bus driver.

At his next assignment, teaching English at Vincentian Institute, Albany, New York (1952-1954), he first became involved in debate. He then began twenty-four years of teaching at Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, California. By the time he left there in 1978, forensics had become his signature activity, and the students he coached had earned enough points in competition to qualify him as a “double-diamond” coach in the National Forensics League. From 1974-1978, he served as the superior of the local religious community.

Brother John had calculated that few high school teachers lasted in that profession beyond age 55, so at age 57 prepared with his doctorate, he was accepted as adjunct faculty in Speech at the University of Notre Dame, where he also served as Director of Forensics and Assistant Rector of Pangborn Hall (1978-1984).

Then Brother John accepted an invitation to become part of an “experimental” religious community while teaching at St. Anthony High School, Long Beach, California. A year of that and he launched into a new venture which engaged him for the next dozen years (1985-1997) as an instructor aboard various ships of the US Navy in the Program for Afloat College Education (PACE). He felt that he was contributing not only by teaching, but by his presence in support of young Catholic sailors, and he greatly enjoyed the opportunity to travel to various ports around the world. At age 76, he retired from teaching altogether, whether on land or sea, and became the director of the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, California. He only accepted the role on a year by year basis, saying modestly “if the Brothers will have me,” but he served them well, holding regular meaningful house meetings, promoting vocations and hosting guests.

In 2003, he returned to the University of Notre Dame as a resident at Columba Hall. He maintained a regular routine of tennis and swimming, and enjoyed the various athletic, cultural and Holy Cross community events.

Then in 2016, in his mid-90s, he accepted assignment to the Brother Vincent Pieau Residence in Austin, Texas, where he had the support of assisted living, at least as much of it as his fierce independence would allow. He preferred to amble without cane or walker until he broke his hip in a fall. Seemingly in bad shape, after the surgery, he
was put on hospice care, until he found out about it. He rejected hospice and set a date for himself to be walking again, and only missed that deadline by a few weeks before he was back on his feet.

Brother John Gerard DoranBrother John was an avid sports enthusiast, favoring the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs, and Notre Dame, of course. He brought that same love of competition to his successful debate squads. Interested in community history, he authored at least a dozen monographs in the SouthWest Province Heritage series, offering his reflections on the lives of our Brothers. While living at Notre Dame, it was his regular Sunday afternoon practice to visit the infirm Brothers at Dujarie House and to write letters for them.

Only in his last week alive, did he finally voluntarily ask to be put on hospice care since he did not want to be hospitalized.

Brother John often spent time in chapel and was a faithful participant in community prayer. This last week as we prayed the Our Father with him at office or Mass, he emphasized over and over again, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.” His prayer was heard early on the morning of February 10, 2019. May our Brother John rest in peace.

Services for Br. John Doran, CSC were held at the chapel of the Brother Vincent Pieau Residence, Austin, Texas. The Memorial Prayer Service was held at 7:00 P.M on Friday, February 15, 2019. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at 10:30 A.M. Saturday, February 16, 2019. The Committal Service took place in the chapel following the Mass. Interment will be at Assumption Cemetery.

– Br. Donald Blauvelt, CSC &
Br. Richard Critz, CSC


He Traveled the Straight and Narrow Path

This morning, I won’t repeat the wonderful chronology of Brother John’s life written by Brother Donald Blauvelt and Brother Richard Critz for John’s obituary. Instead, my personal reflection will focus on Brother John’s call to religious life and his subsequent call to ministry, community and prayer.

GOD’S CALL

Brother John Gerard DoranIn reflecting on the long life of our Brother John, age 97 with 72 years lived as a professed member of the Brothers of Holy Cross, I am reminded of the Constitutions of our Congregation, and in particular, Constitution 8, section 122, which reads, “The footsteps of those men who call us to walk in their company left deep prints, as of men carrying heavy burdens. But they did not trudge; they strode. For they had the hope.”

Our Brother John definitely left deep prints for us to follow. And I believe we can all agree he did not slouch under his burdens of life, but he stood up straight and strode strongly on the path of his life journey, for he had the hope. We might recall one recent example of John’s faith and hope, when months ago he broke his hip and we witnessed his determination to walk again following surgery which he accomplished with the assistance of Brother Sam. Though he was a man of short stature and not much weight, he lived his vocation with great strength, energy and conviction.

I find the story of John’s call from the Lord Jesus, “Come. Follow me.” to be a powerful reflection of God’s interaction in our lives, or as Blessed Basil Moreau would say, “Divine Providence.” Growing up in Kansas City, Missouri in a loving, devout family and supported by his neighborhood parish, St. Francis Xavier, staffed by the Jesuit fathers and within the shadow of the Jesuit institutions of Rockhurst High School and College that he attended, you would think God would have called John to be a member of the Society of Jesus. However, this was not to be.

Following the outbreak of WWII and his completion of a bachelor of science degree from Rockhurst College in 1942, John felt called to serve his country by joining the Army. While serving in Newfoundland, he read the Autobiography of St. Theresa of Lisieux which he states, “inspired me to want to give my life to God and service of the Church in religious life.” Once honorably discharged in 1946, John, continuing to hear God’s call, made application to join the Brothers of Holy Cross.

Being approved for admission by Brother Donatus Schmitz, Brother John went to Watertown, Wisconsin, to begin his Holy Cross journey in September of 1946. First profession of vows followed at Rolling Prairie on February 2, 1948 and perpetual vows on August 16, 1951 at Sacred Heart Church at Notre Dame.

Not knowing Brother John in his early years, I would tend to believe that he took on the mystery of God’s call to Holy Cross with the same commitment and determination he exhibited throughout his religious life. To put it in agrarian terms, once John placed his hand on the plow, he never looked back.

In later years, I was fortunate to visit with John and some of his family when our vacations in Kansas City coincided. In the summers, he enjoyed renewing family ties with his brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces and extended family. Several times I visited with John at his brother Joe’s home in Kansas City, Missouri. Ahead of time, John would caution me that the family’s two dogs were a bit strange in that they would welcome you joyfully, but when you got up to leave they would guard the door and bark furiously. John was not amused by their actions. Although, I believe his brother, Joe, enjoyed John’s discomfort. Other times we joined up to play golf at Teetering Rocks golf course or to share a meal. While not a regular at playing golf, John definitely played the game with great intensity. We know that he was a fierce competitor. He did share with me that he enjoyed meeting pro golfer Tom Watson at the corner coffee shop on several occasions. During our vacations together, John also had the opportunity to visit several of my family members on the Kansas side of the state line. With these back and forth crossings of the state line, we were diligent to be respectful of each other’s geographic heritage.

CALL TO MINISTRY

Following his first profession of vows, Brother John took up his lifelong ministry of teaching. His first assignments took him to Holy Cross School in New Orleans, Central Catholic in Monroe, Michigan, Vincentian Institute in Albany, New York and finally to Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA where he spent twenty-four years. Besides being an effective English and speech teacher, John developed into one of the most distinguished debate and speech coaches in Southern California. His students, successful on the local, state and national levels, were dedicated to Brother John and his program, and he to them.

Brother Andrew Angemeier stated on the occasion of Brother John’s fiftieth anniversary of vows, “During the late 50’s and all through the 1960’s and early 1970’s he organized and lead the National Forensic Society’s ‘invasion’ of the Southern California area, both in Catholic and public high schools.”

I once asked John what it was like coaching debate all those years. He shared that while it was most rewarding, especially in watching his students succeed, it was also very time consuming. He said that with the community schedule, teaching a full load, after school debate meetings and tournaments on weekends, there was little free or down time. I think maybe that is why he was so passionate about watching sports, as he could feel free to be consumed by the game. There was only one downside: if the home team lost, it could ruin his dinner. We know John was an intense sports enthusiast to say the least. When Brother Harold Hathaway and I were with him at Notre Dame High School, Harold would often drive John to away games. If a loss ensued, Harold knew his car door would get a mighty slam when they returned home.

One day, after watching a baseball game, John came to dinner and started explaining the outstanding achievements of several of the players. I had to admit to him that I did not personally know the players. He looked at me with disgust and muttered that the head of school should know the students. John could recall practically everything about his students, even from earliest days. This is why I enjoyed having him join me at alumni reunions. He could remember names and achievements of the alumni that were present; a great feat, and a big help to me.

While being active in ministry, John continued to develop professionally by completing a master’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame and a doctorate in Speech Communication from UCLA in Los Angeles. John spent many summers studying and growing professionally.

At age 57, Brother John made the decision to leave high school teaching and coaching to return to his favorite alma mater, Notre Dame University, as adjunct faculty in Speech, and where he also served as Director of Forensics and Assistant Rector of Pangborn Hall. John thoroughly enjoyed being back under the Golden Dome for six years.

Brother John Gerard DoranThese years came to an end when the Provincial asked him to return to California to teach and live in an experimental community at St. Anthony’s High School in Long Beach, CA. I am not sure what did not work out; the returning to high school teaching or the experimental community living, but in his second year John became involved in the Navy’s Program for Afloat College Education (PACE) and began his final teaching ministry that took him aboard 23 ships over a period of 12 years. Between deployments, John lived first with the Long Beach community and later with the Notre Dame High School community in Sherman Oaks. It was always a joy to have John return home and learn of his exploits both aboard ship and at various ports he was able to visit.

I believe John greatly relished the regimen of Navy life. His experiences were vast: from sharing a small compartment with three or four officers, to landing by fighter jet onto the deck of an aircraft carrier, to touring a new port and discovering a Holy Cross connection or enjoying steel deck picnics on an aircraft carrier. He shared with me that while teaching young sailors aboard ship was a worthwhile ministry, the PACE program provided him the opportunity to fulfill his desire to travel the world, but at no cost to the Province. What is truly amazing is that Brother John accomplished this ministry in his late 60’s and early 70’s, at an age most of us are ready for a more relaxed schedule.

One of my fond memories of Brother John during this time of his life was his ability to lose his sense of direction when we would be out on hikes. I would muse, “How could a man who circumnavigated the world several times, not be able to find where we parked the car?”

CALL TO COMMUNITY

Brother John Gerard DoranBrother John put a high priority on faithfully living community life. It was important to him to not only be faithful in his ministry, but to also support his fellow religious through community living. With our various personalities, we know community living has its challenges, but it also provides us spiritual respite, support and joy. While John was a person of firm character who did not tolerate much mischief, his heart was big in offering care, support and encouragement. In his quiet way, he was a brother you could depend and lean on. I observed this many times as he visited and spent time with Brothers who were ill or in need. Definitely, we could count on John being present for community prayer, meals and gatherings.

John twice served as superior of the Sherman Oaks community. I was there during his second six year term. For John the continued development of religious life through community living was a high priority. He believed in house meetings and worked diligently to make them meaningful and productive. He even brought in a portable speaker to project his quiet voice. John loved to make his point by telling a story. Sometimes we were not sure where he was taking us with the story, but in the end, often ten to fifteen minutes later, we would receive the spiritual significance of his message.

Brother John Gerard DoranBeing of strong will and determination, I believe John at times chafed under the decisions made by Superiors. However, with minimal grumbling he accepted these decisions humbly and with faithful obedience. John did not complain, but that did not exempt him from forthrightly giving you his take on the matter if asked. And if, now and then, his temper caused a problem, he was quick to reflect and follow up with an apology.

Another great contribution to community life was John’s written reflections on the lives of deceased members of the former South-West Province. His titles for these monographs were stories in themselves, such as his title for Brother Theo Flynn, “A Man of Faith and Wisdom” or, for Brother Edward Hagus, “Never a Bad Day.” I believe a good title for John’s monograph should be, “He Traveled the Straight and Narrow Path.”

CALL TO PRAYER

Brother John Gerard DoranWhat stands out to me when reflecting on Brother John’s life is how committed he was to prayer. His daily personal and communal prayer was constant. His prayer for others was expressed daily at Mass, though our Prayers for the Faithful. I believe our Constitutions on prayer, section 23, expresses well John’s commitment to prayer, “We pray with the Church, we pray in community and we pray in solitude. Prayer is our faith attending to the Lord, and in that faith we meet him individually, yet we also stand in the company of others who know God as their Father.”

Brother John’s spirit of prayer poured out to others in need. Several years ago, a former student of John’s from the fifties asked John to pray for his wife who had been diagnosed with cancer. John offered his prayers but also encouraged the man and his family to pray to St. Brother Andre for healing. I have received testimony from this person, who believes that through the intercession of St. Andre and John’s prayers, that his wife’s cancer is in remission allowing her to live a full life.

Even though we recognize John’s faithful commitment to prayer, it does not mean that he was free from driving us crazy at times when the Holy Spirit moved him to a crescendo level in song or word. You could count on John startling us when he shouted out a verse or phrase. At Sherman Oaks, during lent, we would be alert for John offering an echo at Morning Prayer to the verse, “God, himself will set me free from the hunter’s snare.” Softly, you would hear, “from the hunter’s snare, snare.” Somehow, it made holy sense to him.

In closing, I thank our Brother John for leaving deep footprints for us to follow as we continue on our life’s journey. And I thank the Lord for calling John to religious life in Holy Cross. In faith, we believe the Lord Jesus has called him home and is saying to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the heavenly mansion I have prepared for you.”

Amen!

Eulogy by Brother William Nick, CSC
Brother Vincent Pieau Residence Chapel Austin, TX
February 16, 2019


Brother John Gerard Doran CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

  • 1948-1949 Teacher, Holy Cross School New Orleans, LA
  • 1949-1952 Teacher, Catholic Central High School, Monroe, MI
  • 1952-1954 Teacher, Vincentian Institute, Albany, NY
  • 1954-1978 Teacher, Notre Dame High School, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1974-1978 Local Superior, Holy Cross Community, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 1978-1984 Faculty, Asst. Rector, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
  • 1984-1985 Teacher, St. Anthony High School, Long Beach, CA
  • 1985-1997 Instructor, US Navy PACE Program
  • 1997-2003 Local Director, Holy Cross Community, Sherman Oaks, CA
  • 2003-2016 Resident, Columba Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN
  • 2016-2019 Resident, Brother Vincent Pieau Residence, Austin, TX