Covenant Companion Thomas Norris died Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at home in Austin, Texas. He was surrounded by his beloved wife, Laura, and his family. He is at rest now, in the loving arms of God. May his memory be a blessing to all those he loved.

Details regarding the services are not yet known. They will be shared as they become available.

Please hold Thomas, his sister Covenant Companion Mary Ellen Durbin, and his family in your prayers.



Click to View Obituary


Book of Life Entry



In August 2008, Tom made a request to formally connect with the Wheaton Franciscan community as a Covenant Companion (known then as Covenant Member). In his formal application Tom wrote,

“There are two overriding commitments that I witness in your community: prayer and social service to others. Yours is a community that has openly advocated for a Church willing and open to change to meet the needs of the world community today…. I sense a commitment to a spirituality that recognizes the gifts of other traditions, that is capable of integrating those gifts into a contemporary spirituality…. willingness to be open to the God within, the Divine Presence, to the Mindfulness that opens us to the full acceptance of God in our lives.”

In November 2009, Tom made his initial commitment with the Wheaton Franciscan community.

In 2015, Tom wrote,

“I joined the Covenant Membership of the Wheaton Franciscans for several reasons. While I did not know many of the vowed sisters, I did have contacts with covenant members, principally Mary Ellen Durbin, my sister. Mary Ellen has always been an inspiration to me as someone who married contemplation and action in very concrete ways. She was a powerful witness to her relationship with the Wheaton Franciscans, something that I longed to share….  

The Wheaton Franciscans represented a community dedicated to the same ideals, and a community which I felt would support me in my own prayer life and ministries. Spiritual support in my life was and is very important for me…. While I may not be in position to serve as frequently as I have in the past, I will continue to serve. I fully intend to continue living the ideals of Franciscan contemplative life and prayer, following the example of Francis and Clare.  Thus, my desire to continue to live as a Covenant Companion in the Wheaton Franciscan community.”    

Although Tom continued to experience health issues and later a move to Texas, he remained committed to his relationship with the Wheaton Franciscan community, visiting as often as he was able. As his obituary states, “everything about Tom was big.” His love for his family, his dedication to continued spiritual growth, his deep and profound love of God and desire for social justice, and his commitment as a Covenant Companion. Rest in peace Tom!

Those we love don’t go away,
They walk beside us every day,
Unseen, unheard, but always near,
Still loved, still missed and very dear.

Author Unknown

Tom with his sister Mary Ellen when he was going through the orientation program for becoming a Covenant Companion.

Tom at the first covenant renewal in 2016.

Tom with Shirley Justin Wolff at a province gathering in 2016

Tom sharing in circle in 2015