Written on: February 14, 2020
The following words of remembrance were offered by Sister Mary Teresa LaBrake, GNSH, at the funeral liturgy on Saturday, February 22.
Thank you, Father Tim Judge, for celebrating this Liturgy for Sr. Donna Jean Tavernier with the Grey Nuns and Donna’s family. We thank you for your kindness to her and for conveying the Sacrament of the Sick, which was so important to Donna.
Next I will convey the message which I received from Bishop Terry LaValley, Bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
“Dear Sister, Thank you for the news about Sr. Donna Jean’s death. Please know that you and the Sisters are in my thoughts and prayers at this time of sadness. As you know so well, she had a great faith and love for the Church. When I return to the North Country I will celebrate a Mass, in my personal Chapel, for the repose of her soul and for you and the Grey Nuns. Please send my greetings and blessings to my Grey Nun friends.” Bishop LaValley
We are grateful that the weather permitted so many of Sr. Donna Jean’s close knit family to be with us for her Liturgy. Donna Jean was born in Ogdensburg, NY on October 18, 1935 to Francis and Ernestine Tavernier who are already receiving the rewards of their labors. Her two brothers Jack and Richard, as well as her dear Aunt Rose (Sr. Mary Evangeline), predeceased her. Dianne, her only sister, is present with us, for this Liturgy, along with many of her relatives. This indicates the great love and respect which they have had for Donna.
Sr. Donna graduated two years after me from St. Mary’s Academy in Ogdensburg, NY. She was a very popular girl with life, vigor, and an abundance of enthusiasm as a Cheerleader.
Sr. Donna entered our Community in 1953, leaving her close knit family behind. After her Novitiate, she taught elementary grades 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 in schools located in Jackson Heights, Long Island; Buffalo, NY; Mahanoy City, Pa; Lowell, Mass.; King of Prussia and Paoli, PA; Potsdam, NY as a teacher and as adjunct professor in Potsdam State; Ogdensburg, NY; and to the far North in Kodiak, Alaska.
She also worked as a Nurse’s Aide at our Motherhouse, for a time. There is an old adage which states: “enter the Convent and see the world.” When Donna left teaching to assist her mother in her elder years, she was employed at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Ogdensburg, NY as an Activities Aide which included Clerical work. She also took care of the Chapel and visited residents who loved to visit with her.
In her teaching career, Donna was noted for keeping the names of all her students. Her love for her students was remarkable. She kept us entertained at dinner time relating funny episodes that occurred with her first grade students. One of our Sisters told me that she taught her how to teach First Grade.
A parent in Ogdensburg stated that she would always be grateful to Sr. Donna Jean for teaching her sons how to read. These boys are now employed successfully in the business world. Another Sister shared that she knew her in Lowell, Mass. Sister stated that she was a great teacher, was great with her students, and the children loved her. She had a great memory regarding all the places in which she had been missioned. I’m sure many more reflections could be shared but, those Sisters are already with God reaping their rewards.
I now move from Sr. Donna Jean’s teaching career to her life in Community which was very dear to her.
Some of the Sisters recall that Donna’s mother would invite them to go to their Camp on the St. Lawrence River to enjoy a few hours in relaxation. A Sister, from her Novitiate, says she remembers “her dancing, wonderful eyes.”
Many Sisters have commented that Donna was Community oriented and valued Community Living. She was a very kind and generous person (going the extra mile), prayerful, meticulously neat, thoughtful and caring of others, a woman who knew her values and lived them. Donna was a pleasant person who enjoyed conversing with those around her.
She was humble and wise, open and honest, valued and learned from others, had great loyalty and stood by those she loved. Having an understanding of the feelings of others came from her heart and led her to be affectionate with her greetings. Donna was proud to be a Grey Nun and continued with our Grey Nun Devotions.
She was dependable and reliable in the ways she organized and assisted Sr. Joan, when their St. Joseph’s Convent, in Ogdensburg, was sold. They emptied their Convent to move to the New York Avenue Convent. On a humorous note Donna loved to watch, with the Sisters, the British Sitcom: “Keeping Up Appearances.” I am sure those walking by on the Street could hear our loud laughter from within.
Sr. Pat McKeon shared that “Donna expressed her gratitude for all that the Sisters and Maureen Goodall did for her. She was always listening, but it would take her about two minutes to respond.”
In conclusion, Donna’s mother was a resident in St. Joseph’s Nursing Home when my Dad was also there, in the room across from Ernestine. Early one morning on my way into work at the Cathedral, I stopped by to check on Dad. Almost immediately, Donna was in Dad’s room calling: “Sr. Mary Teresa, come quick, Mother is dying.” When I appeared at the bedside, Donna said: “Say a prayer.” Through an inspiration from the Holy Spirit, I prayed, “Jesus says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” Donna said immediately: “She’s gone.”
Donna bid farewell to her beloved mother. Now, we bid farewell to our much loved Donna Jean by praying: “Jesus says, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” while He carries you into your eternal inheritance. Amen.”
Sister Donna Jean Tavernier (formerly Sister Mary Jude), 85, died February 13, 2020 at St. Joseph’s Manor, Meadowbrook, PA in the 67th year of her religious life. A native of Ogdensburg, she was one of four children born to Francis and Ernestine O’Donoghue Tavernier.
Sister served in the field of education for 32 years.
In New York: Jackson Heights (Our Lady of Fatima 1956-59, 1971-72, 1985-87), Buffalo (Holy Angels School 1959-60), Potsdam (St Mary’s 1972-79), and Ogdensburg (Ogdensburg Catholic Central School 1979-82, 1987-90).
In Pennsylvania: Mahanoy City (St Canicus 1960-62), King of Prussia (Mother of Divine Providence 1968-70), Paoli (St. Norbert’s 1970-71) and Yardley (Grey Nun Academy 1971-72).
In Massachusetts: Lowell (Immaculate Conception 1962-65, 1966-68) and
In Kodiak, Alaska (St Mary’s 1965-66).
Sister was an adjunct Instructor at State University of New York, Potsdam 1975-76. Her knowledge and skills were further channeled in service to her Grey Nun Sisters as a Nurse’s Aide in the Motherhouse Infirmary (1982-85) and for 15 years as an Activities Aide/Clerical Worker at St. Joseph’s Home in Ogdensburg (1996-2011). In 2011, Sister retired to the Motherhouse and then to Holy Redeemer D’Youville Manor in Yardley where she continued to provide Intra-community service. In 2014 Sister moved to St. Joseph’s Manor, Meadowbrook, PA where she resided until her death.
Sister Donna Jean graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in 1953, the year of her entrance into the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. She received a BS in Education from D’Youville College (1966).
In addition to her religious community, she is survived by her sister, Dianne Fitzgibbon as well as nieces and nephews. Sister is predeceased by her parents and two brothers. She is also predeceased by her aunt Sister Rose O’Donoghue, GNSH (Sister Mary Evangeline).
Saturday, February 22- Redeemer Sisters’ Chapel 521 Moredon Rd, Huntingdon Valley, PA
Viewing will begin at 9:30 am, followed by a sharing of memories at 10:15 am. and Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 am. Burial will be in Resurrection Cemetery, Bensalem, PA.
In lieu of flowers, donations in memory of Sister Donna Jean’s life of prayer and service will be gratefully received. Donations may be made on line here, or by mail to: Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart,14500 Bustleton Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19116-1188. We are grateful for your prayers and support.
Services arranged by Beck-Givnish Funeral Homes, Inc.