Janis Dopp: Oblation Made Life Beautiful

Tuesday, February 20, 2024


Saint Meinrad Oblate Director, Janis Faye Dopp, 76, of Bloomington, IN, passed away on Thursday, October 12, 2023, after a two-year fight with multiple myeloma. The funeral Mass for Janis was held in the Archabbey Church on October 19, 2023. She was known at Saint Meinrad especially for her baked goods, and loved by many monks, oblates, and co-workers.

“To be part of this particular community means the world to me, because I love the community, I love the place,” Janis said in a 2018 interview. “From the very first time I stepped on these grounds, I felt like I was coming home in some way, and I couldn’t explain that to anybody.”

Fr. Meinrad Brune, OSB, recalled in his funeral homily for Janis that her first experience with the monks of Saint Meinrad was when she joined them for prayer early one morning. “The bells were ringing as she was running in the dark to the north door of the church,” he said. “Before she got there, the bells stopped, but when she opened the door, she heard the monks chanting, and she knew she had to be part of this prayer.”

That prayer soon became a part of her daily life, and Saint Meinrad her spiritual home, when she was invested as an oblate novice in 1991 by Fr. Gerald Ellspermann, OSB. Her 32 years as an oblate changed her life.

“When I first came to Saint Meinrad, Father Justin DuVall, OSB, said to me, ‘You are not here to become a little monklet. You are here because you want to be a better wife and a better mother.’ And that made sense to me,” she explained.

As an oblate, she allowed the Rule of St. Benedict to change and form her. She took the Benedictine sense of balance and applied it to her life. She took the sensibilities about hospitality, rhythm of prayer throughout the day, the importance of contemplation and lectio divina and plugged that into the life she led off the Hill.

“It’s something very quiet, and yet it’s something that changes your life forever. It makes the ordinary life that I live something truly beautiful,” she said about being an oblate. “I can invest every moment of everyday with an understanding that baking a loaf of bread or making dinner or doing laundry, making beds, that all of those are holy activities when we look at them through eyes of obedience and humility.”

Janis received her bachelor’s degree in English from Indiana University and her master’s degree from Saint Meinrad School of Theology. She served as the director of religious education at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Bloomington for over 25 years. In 2017, she became the first layperson to serve as the oblate director at Saint Meinrad, a position she held until she passed away.

She accomplished a lot in those five years, growing and strengthening Saint Meinrad’s oblate community. She updated the Benedictine Oblate Newsletter, published four times a year, to be a source of formation and inspiration for the oblates. She renamed it the Benedictine Oblate Quarterly and hoped it would help oblates feel connected to Saint Meinrad and more informed about the Rule of St. Benedict and how it should apply to their lives in the world.

She revised the Oblate Rites to have Archabbot Kurt Stasiak, OSB, invest the oblate novices and receive the final oblations four times a year in the Archabbey Church. And she created a formation process to help novices understand what they are promising at their oblation.

She also served on the team that organized the last two World Congresses of Benedictine Oblates in Rome. The most recent World Congress this past September concluded with the Congress participants attending a private audience with Pope Francis.

Her life and dedication as an oblate expanded her faith and increased her heart, and as a result she helped many other people grow spiritually and connect with the Saint Meinrad community.

“There have been so many points over the last quarter of a century that people have said, ‘What makes you so happy?’” said Janis. “I’m able to say, ‘Well, my husband and children make me happy, and Saint Meinrad makes me happy,’ and it’s true. There is a peace that I experience here that is so fulfilling, I think it tangible in my life.”