After 28 years of memories, the Turlock community is saying farewell and safe travels to Sister Christina Doona as she embarks on the next chapter of her life. Doona will be leaving for her native Ireland on Tuesday, after serving the Sacred Heart Parish since 1983.
“She has truly been a ‘sister’ to us. She has helped to make us truly feel like a family. Our parish family will not be the same without her. She has helped unite our hearts in love,” said Father Mark Wagner of Sacred Heart Parish.
Doona entered the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary in Essex, England in 1951. She took her vows in 1954. Doona also trained as a social worker. Her ministry took her to Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Turlock, which was founded by her order. Sacred Heart had at least eight sisters working at the parish and school at one time, but slowly the number has diminished. Doona has been the lone sister at Sacred Heart for several years.
The number of nuns and sisters in the world is shrinking. Doona and Wagner both pray that another sister is sent in her place, but Wagner said that there are not enough sisters for every parish. Doona took vows of chastity, poverty and obedience four years after first joining her order. She said that poverty and obedience are hard vows to keep. She said any young woman who is considering becoming a nun should pray.
“My prayer was that nothing would distract me from what I was called to do,” she said.
Since her arrival in Turlock, Doona has been a volunteer at Emanuel Medical Center. Her ministry at Sacred Heart has been to visit the sick and elderly. She coordinates nursing home visits for residents, who receive communion at least once a week. She spends at least 20 hours a week visiting and praying with the sick and elderly. She also spends time with homebound seniors and disabled people. Doona was awarded “Sweet Heart of the Year” in 1995 and “Good Samaritan of the Year” in 1998 by Emanuel Hospital.
Her experience ministering to the sick has taught Doona that there are good people in Turlock, Catholic or not. She wanted to thank Chaplain Luther England for all of his work at Emanuel. He was there day and night, and would call at any hour to make sure that a dying patient received communion.
“He was always there for us,” Doona said.
Doona was recognized around Turlock for her blue religious habit. She wears her habit as an outward sign of faith. Her blue habit and ring symbolize her betrothal to Christ. She likens her habit to a uniform, because it allows others to recognize her as a nun.
“If you meet a policeman without a uniform you wouldn’t recognize him as a policeman,” she explained.
After 28 years of service, Doona was called on to retire from Sacred Heart and move back to Ireland. Her plans so far include visiting her family in Killarney, County Kent. She came from a large family, with three brothers and four sisters. She said that it was the will of her superiors that she leaves California, and that she loves the people in Turlock.
“It has been a beautiful life. I have loved every moment. I want to tell the Turlock community that I love them and they’ll always be in my heart. Thank you for the acceptance, love and kindness.”
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