Doran, Father John

1939, June 23

Date of Birth: 1872, May 22

No Memorial Card is Available

November 15, 1939

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

Among the members of our dear American province there are still many who came to France to make their Solitude at Issy. From time to time some were sent to France to finish, at the Seminary of St. Sulpice, their priestly formation. Father Doran was one of that number. God called him to Himself last June 23rd at a time when he might still have been able to serve the Church for many years and to continue at San Francisco the pastoral ministry with which he crowned his life.

John Joseph Doran was born on May 22, 1872, at Sacramento, California. His parents, Joseph and Jeanne Doran, were fine Catholics who wanted to give a truly Christian upbringing to their son and who carefully looked out for his earliest education. The boy made his first studies at Berkeley, near Oakland and San Francisco.

At that time there was no minor seminary in California. John Doran, who wanted to be a priest, had to go clear across the American continent to enter, on May 22, 1890, the minor seminary of St. Charles at Ellicott City, Maryland, in the Diocese of Baltimore. It was there that he first knew the Sulpicians, and no doubt his Sulpician vocation dates from that period.

In September, 1895, Father Doran was admitted to St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, and began Philosophy.

When that was finished in 1897, he was sent to St. Sulpice, first to the seminary at Issy and then to the seminary of Paris. Father Doran won the esteem of all, and he made precious friendships. Father Garriguet, who was to become the Superior General of the Society, then Vice-Rector of the Paris seminary, had especially taken notice of father Doran in the large community he was running.

On April 14, 1900, Father Doran was ordained priest by His Excellency, Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco, who was passing through France. The school year, 1900-1901, was our confrere’s Solitude year. Once Solitude was over, Father Captier, Superior General, appointed him to St. Patrick’s Seminary at Menlo Park in the Diocese of San Francisco. St. Patrick’s, still in its early years, was recently entrusted to the Society of St. Sulpice. He stayed there, first as teacher, then as Superior, of the minor seminary section. In that capacity he succeeded Father Vuibert, who was the first Superior of the minor seminary when it, though located at Menlo Park, constituted a community distinct from the major seminary.

A man of great faith, a priest imbued with a true religious spirit, a Sulpician very anxious to provide excellent and numerous priests to the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the dioceses of the Far West of America, Father Doran became the apostle of priest-recruitment. He had the Archbishop’s encouragement and his Superior’s permission. With recruitment in mind, he went around to all the parishes of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, visiting all the Catholic schools to seek out and uncover priestly vocations. At the time everyone praised his courage, his tenacity, his delicacy, and his zeal. Preacher of “The Priestly Vocation,” he gave to the Archdiocese of San Francisco numerous and distinguished priests. Many members of the California clergy owe to him, at least in part, their ecclesiastical training and their priesthood.

While attending to this outside ministry to the best of his ability, Father Doran was carrying out his duties as teacher and director. In spite of the difficulties which he encountered in doing all this, he accomplished at Menlo Park, on behalf of the boys and young men who aspired to the priesthood, a remarkable job of teaching and of Christian and religious education.

This strictly Sulpician ministry came to an end when the minor seminary was separated from the major and was transferred to Mountain View and named St. Joseph’s. His successor was Father Jepson, first Superior of the new house.

At that period, Father Garriguet, who had not forgotten Father Doran, told him of his desire to see him back in France, and offered to appoint him to the seminary of St. Sulpice in Issy. Father Doran did not think he should accept the very honorable offer made by Father Garriguet.

Family problems kept him from continuing his work in our houses. He was named administrator, then pastor, of St. Emydius parish in San Francisco while remaining a member of the Society.

At the parish, he showed himself a devoted pastor in the fullest sense of the term. The parish, physically and spiritually, was to be started from scratch. Father Doran set to work with courage and perseverance, dedicating himself completely – he and all he possessed – to the benefit of the spiritual work for which he had accepted the responsibility.

Must we attribute to that exclusive preoccupation the relative isolation in which he lived and acted for many years?  Perhaps. For it is difficult otherwise to explain how so outgoing a priest, one who had made loyal friends for himself, restricted tightly – almost within the very narrow limits of his parish – the circle of his friendships and to explain his preoccupations. His preoccupations, it is true, were numerous and absorbing.

A new parish, such as that of St. Emydius, is not organized without hard work and concentration on detail. The money necessary for the spiritual and material life of a pretty good number of the faithful is not come by without long seeking and much giving of self.

Moreover, if such were the appearances, the reality under them was otherwise. Father Doran had faithfully kept the memory of his confreres, of his old teachers, of his friends. During a visitation made in May, 1938, the one who writes these lines heard him call up, not without emotion, the memory of Father Captier, of Father Garriguet, and of his teachers at St. Sulpice, of whom he remained very fond. I heard him ask for specific and detailed news of Father Touzard, his former director, who – like himself – was engaged in parochial ministry. I heard him inquire about his American confreres on the Atlantic coast, and about his friends in France whose names he still knew and whom he remembered in strikingly precise detail. The pastor of St. Emydius was still the student of St. Sulpice affectionately faithful to the memory of his teachers. He was still the priest and the man who had forgotten neither his confreres not his oldest and most distant friends.

But, to repeat, he was above all else wrapped up in his duties as pastor. If, thereby, he apparently sacrificed his whole past and, really, the modest good he might have been able to do for himself and, it seems, he ought to have done for his co-workers, it was not through heartlessness nor through spiritual aridity nor through over attachment to worldly goods, but simply through concern about contributing to the spiritual and material good of the parish entrusted to him.

His spirit of faith and religion, his great friendliness, and especially his zeal explain the lights and shadows of his life. Perhaps his zeal even shortened his life. He was in the process of building a large school, a school which would have required to be spent on it more resources than he had, when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Still hard at work [when stricken] but before the day was over, the good servant was called to his eternal reward.

I recommend Father Doran’s soul to your charitable prayers.

Please accept, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my fraternal respect.

P. Boisard

Vice-Superior General of St. Sulpice