A Remembrance of Sr. Elizabeth Thoman
A Remembrance of Sr. Elizabeth Thoman
June 18, 1943 – December 22, 2016
Sister Elizabeth Thoman, CHM, died December 22, 2016 at Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston, Iowa. Elizabeth Jeanne Thoman was born to John Arthur and Gertrude Roberson and grew up in Nashville, Tennessee. She entered the Congregation of the Humility of Mary in 1964, professing vows in 1966. She graduated with a B.A. from Marycrest College and earned a Masters degree from the University of Southern California, Annenberg School of Communications and also from Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles.
Liz Thoman spent her life advocating for media literacy education, helping to advance the growth of the national media literacy movement in the United States. She began her career teaching English at Linehan High School in Marshalltown, Iowa from 1967 - 1969 where she developed an interest in communication education. From 1970 - 1975, she served as staff photographer for the Franciscan Communications Center where she helped make short films designed to promote classroom discussion in religious education. To advance the communications ministry, Liz founded and led the National Sisters Communications Service in Los Angeles from 1975 to 1983. This network provided professional communication resources for women religious communities nationwide. Communications was seen as the key to changing the traditional public image of nuns and helping people understand and value the sisters' new roles in a variety of ministries. It was through this work that Liz met Norman Lear, a television producer who created “All in the Family,” who sought her advice on a television show that would feature the changing roles of Catholic nuns.
When Liz attended a Canadian media literacy conference in Guelph, Ontario and a UNESCO sponsored-conference on media education in Toulouse, France in 1989, she was inspired to help coordinate American educators at the national level to advance the development of a media literacy movement. She worked with Charles Firestone of the Aspen Institute to develop the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy, which was held in 1992. At this meeting, the definition of media literacy was established as the “ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a wide variety of forms.”
Upon her retirement, Liz continued to develop her skills as a professional photographer by establishing Healing Petals, a collection of unique photographs to stimulate meditation, reflection and prayer in a process that is grounded in feminist spirituality, Buddhist philosophy, Christian theology and holistic health. In 2010, Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, commissioned a collection of her photographs to be installed in each of nearly 300 patient rooms.
Elizabeth Thoman was a member of the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, a contemporary religious community which welcomed Liz's mission to bring media literacy to the world. After retirement to Humility of Mary Center in 2013, she served in the CHM Membership Development office. She moved to Bishop Drumm in 2016 where she remained until her death. She is survived by brothers James, Lawrence (Beth) and John Jr., sisters Patricia Young and Mary Lynn Thoman, as well as nieces, nephews and members of her religious community. She was preceded in death by her parents.
Services at Bishop Drumm’s Our Lady of Peace Chapel in Johnston, Iowa were held 4 pm, Monday, December 26. Services at the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport were on Tuesday, December 27, with Rosary-Visitation at 4 pm and Vigil at 7 pm. The funeral mass was held on December 28 at 11:00 am, with burial at Mt. Calvary Cemetery.
A memorial gathering was held in Elizabeth Thoman’s honor in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 12, from 2-4 PM at St. Augustine’s Parish Hall. Featured speakers included media literacy leaders Renee Hobbs, Tessa Jolls, Erin Reilly, Rose Pacatte, Henry Jenkins, Bobbie Eisenstock, Jeff Share, Frank Dawson, Howard Rosenberg, Michael Robb-Grieco and Michael Danielson. Co-hosts were Tessa Jolls, Center for Media Literacy, Sr. Rose Pacatte, Pauline Center for Media Studies, and Michael Danielson, Seattle Preparatory School.
Memorials may be made to the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, 820 W Central Park Ave, Davenport, IA 52804.