“ will give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with all my heart and I will glorify your name forever. Great has been your kindness to me.”

~ Psalm 86:12-13

Jubilarian 2023 – 70 Years a Sister

Seventy years seems like a long time to be committed to a ministry of service to others, but that is what I have been privileged as a Grand Rapids Dominican to do.

Marilyn Thelen was born in Pewamo, Michigan on August 31, 1932 to Louis and Hilda Thelen. The oldest of eight children, she attended St. Joseph Grade School and Pewamo High School. After working for two years, Marilyn entered Marywood in 1952 and received the name Sister Donna Jean of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Sister Donna Jean earned a BA in History and an MA in Religious Studies from Aquinas College.

“My mother was a teacher and used to tell interesting stories of her years as a teacher; and my own experience of having good teachers, I think, prompted me to gladly accept teaching as my first ministry,” recalled Sister Donna Jean. She taught in elementary schools in Grand Rapids, Saginaw, Hart, Muskegon, Taylor and Pewamo for 43 years and was Principal for 29 of those years. She enjoyed working with students and now enjoys hearing their success stories.

Some years during summer breaks Sister Donna Jean volunteered doing different kinds of work. A few summers she helped out at Aquinata Hall, so in 1997 when asked to take the position of Common Life Coordinator, she didn’t hesitate to accept the position. “It is a privilege to serve our Sisters and others whose health and age no longer permit them to do what they once could do.”

“Both teaching and working at Aquinata Hall have helped me stretch my abilities for which I am very grateful. I often remind myself how blessed I am and have been because of my trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”