by Dr. Eugene J. Fisher, Professor of Theology, Saint Leo University
My mother, Caroline Fisher, nee Caroline Marie Damm, was born on August 4, 1916, and laid to rest on June 16, 2018. She lived happily and raised four children with my father, Eugene Joseph Fisher, Jr., for some 42 years, and lived on her own after his death for even longer than that. A full life. And a very Catholic life.
An only child, she attended Catholic grade and high school, and was in her second year at a Catholic women's college in Detroit, Marygrove, when the lingering effects of the Great Depression made it necessary for her to go to work to help pay for food and housing for her small family. Seeing how much worse it was for many others in her neighborhood and in the larger community led her to develop a strong ethic of helping those in need. She told me about this as a way to instill in me the same sense of Christian responsibility to live out and not merely pay lip service to the teachings of the Church, rooted as they are in the teachings of the biblical prophets and Jesus.
The Damm family and the Fisher family lived in houses at the opposite ends of the same street in Detroit, so knew each other not only through their parish and schools but as neighbors. Sharing values and a strong Catholic faith, Caroline and Eugene married and had four children. At the time they married, Jews and Catholics were still being excluded from the “better” schools, colleges, occupations and neighborhoods. My father, for example, was the first Catholic ever to join a major law firm in the history of Michigan. He also helped Jewish lawyers find jobs with his and other law firms, as a number of them told me at his wake. He also worked to set up a charitable foundation under the auspices of the Knights of Columbus.
My mother devoted herself to raising her children and also helping those in need. Among other activities she was particularly active in working as what was then Bon Secours Catholic hospital, visiting the patients, bringing them books to read, food and helping in any way that she could. She helped establish and led the Bon Secours Assistance League, organizing other women to help in these and other charitable efforts. She attended mass daily at Saint Clare of Montefalco Church, and later in other churches when she moved to a small apartment on the East Side after my father's death. She prayed the rosary constantly, wherever she was.
I knew about this, of course, and that she continued these efforts to help others as well as she could until her death at 101. At her funeral mass, the priest, who knew her from her charitable work and worked with her for 15 years, went into what she did in more detail than I knew. She should, he concluded, be called “Doctor Caroline Fisher” for her work in helping the ill and others in need, and her skill in organizing others to live truly Catholic lives following and exemplifying what Jesus and Mary exhort us all to do and to be, angels of mercy for those in need.