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Franciscan Sister Donna Storms marks 70th year in religious order

UPDATED: Thu., July 29, 2021

By Nina Culver For The Spokesman-Review

Sister Donna Storms, a Spokane native, is celebrating her 70th year as a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration.

Storms, 90, comes from a family of seven children. She and her brother and sister, Mike and Jeanne Storms, are the surviving siblings. Jeanne Storms, would also join the Franciscan religious order. Donna Storms had Franciscan sisters as her teachers when she was young, which played a role in her decision.

Jeanne Storms said she remembers how it was always assumed her sister would become a nun.

“There was never any doubt about that,” she said.

Donna Storms would often finish her school work early and was allowed to read books to pass the time in class. Jeanne Storms, who was 4½ years younger, remembers it was a book about St. Francis that inspired her.

“She was hooked,” she said. “From then on, she wanted to be a Franciscan like him.”

Their father was supportive of her calling to be a nun, but wanted her to join an order that was based closer to home than La Crosse, Wisconsin. But Donna Storms was determined, her sister said, and she went off to join the Franciscans.

While in Spokane, Donna Storms attended Marycliff High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the Franciscan order is based. She later earned master’s degrees in English and pastoral ministry from Seattle University.

Storms spent much of her early life in a classroom. She taught middle school students in Wisconsin for seven years, then was the principal at St. Anthony School in Spokane for three years. She taught and served in parish ministry in Provo, Utah, for four years. She came back to Spokane in 1974 to serve as the Catholic Diocese of Spokane’s director of religious education until 1989.

Jeanne Storms said her sister was an excellent teacher.

“She had a way of making hard things easy,” she said.

Donna particularly enjoyed her time in Spokane as the director of religious education, her sister said.

“She went to all the little parishes that no one ever went to,” she said.

She then moved to La Puente, California, where she worked as the director of adult religious education at St. Louis of France Parish. She retired in 2001, but continued working as a volunteer until she moved to La Crosse in 2016. She currently is cared for at Villa St. Joseph in La Crosse, where her Diamond Jubilee was celebrated this spring.

Jeanne Storms worked as an English teacher and a secretary for many years. After she retired, she spent some time volunteering with her sister Donna in La Puente until they both left for Wisconsin.

But though the two sisters joined the same order and volunteered together in later years, it wasn’t planned that way. In fact, when Jeanne Storms decided to join the Franciscans several years after her sister did, she didn’t even tell her.

“I presumed she knew,” she said. “I kind of kept it quiet because a lot of people thought I wasn’t convent material.”

The two sisters live close to one another in Wisconsin and can visit, Jeanne Storms said.

“We love each other,” she said. “I miss her when she’s not here.”

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