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Thorman, Donald Joseph


American journalist, author, and publisher of the National Catholic Reporter ; b. Cicero, Illinois, Dec. 23, 1924; married, Barbara Lisowski, 1952, seven children;d. Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 30, 1977. Thorman was the third and last child of Harry and Adophine Leverman Thorman; his father died when Thorman was two. The young Thorman, growing up during the Depression, began working at an early age to help support himself. He attended public elementary schools in Oak Park, Illinois, attended Oak Park High School. He spent his senior high school year at St. Philip's High School, Chicago, run by the Servite Fathers, and, upon graduation, entered the Servites' Mount St. Philip Monastery, Granville, Wisconsin for a year, before joining the U.S. Marine Corps (1942). He left the Marines in 1946, joined the Viatorian Fathers for a year, then entered De Paul University. He began teaching at Loyola University, spent a portion of the year 1950 at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and received an M.A. in sociology from Loyola that same year. He enrolled in Fordham University to begin work on a doctorate, but returned to Chicago after one year to help his family when his brother-in-law was stricken with terminal cancer.

In 1952, Thorman became managing editor of The Voice of St. Jude (now the U.S. Catholic ), marrying Barbara Lisowski the same year. In 1956, Thorman became managing editor of Ave Maria magazine; in 1962, he was publisher and director of development for the Spiritual Life Institute of America; and in 1963, he formed his own company, Catholic Communications Consultants. In Dec. 1965, he became publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, which was then just over a year old.

Author of The Emerging Layman (Garden City, N.Y.1962), Thorman was a major figure in the post-Vatican II U.S. Church, especially as publisher of the Reporter, a newspaper founded by a group of lay people in 1964, with Robert G. Hoyt as editor, in the belief that an independent press is a vital and healthy asset to the Church. Thorman and the newspaper's role were also important in ecumenical and interreligious affairs. He was active in the National Conference of Christians and Jews. To a generation of Catholics, especially those familiar with the Chicago Catholic tradition arising from the social encyclicals, the Catholic labor movement, and the Christian Family Movement (whose journal he and his wife edited for ten years), Thorman epitomized that era and helped establish a positive, active role for the laity in the Church. His other books include Christian Union (Garden City, N.Y. 1967), American Catholics Face the Future (Wilkes Barre, Pa. 1968), and Power to the People of God (Paramus, N.J. 1970).

[a. jones]

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