Sister Mary Christine (Christophil) Athans, BVM

Sister Mary Christine (Christophil) Athans, BVM, 87, died Dec. 7, 2019, at Caritas Center in Dubuque, Iowa.

Services will be Monday, Dec. 16, 2019, in the Marian Hall Chapel. Visitation will be from 10-11:00 a.m., followed by the Sharing of Memories. Mass of Christian Burial will be at 1:15 p.m. Burial will be in the Mount Carmel cemetery. 

Sister Mary Christine was born on April 7, 1932, in Joliet, Ill., to Christophil and Mary Anderson Athans. She entered the BVM congregation Sept. 8, 1955, from St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Phoenix. She professed first vows on Feb. 3, 1958, and final vows on July 16, 1963.

After a year of teaching in the Scottsdale, Ariz., public school system, Christine entered the congregation of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Sept. 8, 1955, from St. Thomas the Apostle parish in Phoenix. She received the name Christophil upon her reception on March 19, 1956, professed first vows on Feb. 3, 1958, and lived 64 years as a BVM.

Christine’s first missions were as a seventh grade teacher at St. Eugene in Chicago, an English and speech teacher at Our Lady of Peace High School in Saint Paul, Minn., and theology and history teacher at Xavier High School in Phoenix.

Her arrival in Phoenix coincided with the formation of the North Phoenix Corporate Ministry (NPCM), co-founded by the St. Francis pastor. NPCM was a group of Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant congregations who collaborated in areas of education, liturgy, social concerns, and communication. As its executive director, Christine coordinated ecumenical activities for both clergy and laity. This ministry held a special place in her heart for its fruitful outreach and even more for the love shared within the community.

After earning her master’s degree at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, Calif., Christine served as assistant dean and faculty member at the Claremont School of Theology and faculty member at the University of San Francisco. She completed her doctoral degree in historical theology at GTU in 1982 and returned to the Midwest.

Over the next 34 years, she was as an assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Illinois in Champaign, an associate professor of church history at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, an associate professor and professor at the St. Paul Seminary, now the School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, and an adjunct professor at Loyola University Institute of Pastoral Studies and the Catholic Theological Union, both in Chicago. She moved to Phoenix in 2016 and worked as a guest lecturer and in alumnae relations at Xavier College Preparatory until coming to Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa.

Christine was a prolific author who wrote extensively on Jewish-Christian relations. She penned several books, most notably In Quest of the Jewish Mary: The Mother of Jesus in History, Theology, and Spirituality, published in 2013. In addition, she contributed chapters to a number of books, wrote numerous magazine articles and book reviews, edited several publications, served on theological discussion panels and gave countless lectures and presentations.

She served on more than 20 boards and committees, including the Commission on Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs for the Diocese of Phoenix; the Committee on Jewish-Christian Relations for the Commission on Ecumenical Inter-religious Affairs of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul-Minneapolis; and the Catholic-Jewish Scholars Dialogue sponsored by the Archdiocese of Chicago, the Chicago Board of Rabbis, and the United Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago.

Recognitions include the B’nai B’rith Humanitarian of the Year Award, the Samuel H. Scheiner Human Relations Award presented by the Jewish Community Relations Council Anti-Defamation League of Minnesota and the Dakotas, and the National Conference of Christians and Jews Award. She was named to both Who’s Who in Religion and Who’s Who in America.

She was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by siblings Catherine Athans and Cyril (Veronica) Athans, both of Fresno, Calif.; nieces; and the Sisters of Charity, BVM, with whom she shared life for 64 years. 

Memorials may be given to Sisters of Charity, BVM Support Fund, 1100 Carmel Drive, Dubuque, IA 52003 or online at

Honoring Sister Mary Christine (Christophil) Athans, BVM

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