On April 13, 1928 Celine Tilmann was born to John and Emma Tilmann in Beal City. And surely the world has been a brighter place for the presence of this lady who was to enter the Grand Rapids Dominicans in 1948 and take the name of Sister Jean Paul of the Holy Cross. In Jean’s own words:

“After much thought, prayer, and desire to be of service to people, I decided I would enter a religious community — namely, the Dominicans — since this was the community I knew best. The Sisters with whom I came in contact at school were a very kind, compassionate type. I thought that, with God’s help, I might be of service to God’s people in some way; and at the same time I would strive to learn how best to save my own soul.”

Raised on a farm with two brothers and three sisters, Jean learned at an early age to share much and to love and enjoy the beauty, simplicity, and marvels of the earth – soil, water, clouds – and people. So it seemed natural that she would spend several years of her life studying and teaching environmental studies and geography. She shared her gifts with both grade school children and students and colleagues at Aquinas College. She also helped to initiate the Eastown Project, an endeavor which helped stabilize the neighborhood in which she lived.

She had a deep love for the community, and was deeply appreciative of the loving companionship of her sisters over the years. Jean found in them the support she needed to endure with courage fourteen long years of battling cancer. She also found in community the strength to respond in joy, and with resilience, to each new challenge in her life.

She was a seasoned gardener and a self-proclaimed handyman (person). At the same time, she was a dedicated scholar and committed to academic leadership. Her sense of humor was a gift to and for all, a gift which she maintained, even in her dying moments.

Jean was a fine Dominican — facing truth and dealing with it forthrightly. She totally accepted the last phase of her journey to her Creator. At Aquinata Hall she continued to minister as steadfastly as she had throughout the rest of her life. Her gentle smile was unfailing; her appreciation to and for all was genuine; her prayer was constant. She conducted her own affairs to the very end.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains, whence help shall come to me …. “

“I thank my God for you whenever I think of you, for you are very dear to me . . … “

Thank you, Jean.

Jean is survived by her mother, Emma, and other members of her family: Norman and Mary Tilmann, Art Tilmann, Bill and Virginia Schuller, Sister Vera Ann Tilmann, Francis and Teresa Schiller, several nieces and nephews and many friends. Her father, John M. Tilmann, preceded Jean in death in 1971.