Sister McMillan, teacher, musician, dies


Sister Mary Mel McMillan, OSF, died May 2 at The Alverno in Clinton. She was 86.

Sr. McMillan

She was born Shirley Jean McMillan on Sept. 5, 1928, in California, to Jaquith Harold and Hazel Mae Hickox McMillan. A convert to Catholicism, she was baptized in 1951. She entered the congregation of the Sisters of St. Francis at Mount St. Clare Convent, Clinton, in 1955. There, she received the name Mary Mel. She professed final vows in 1963.

Sr. McMillan earned a B.A. in music education at St. Ambrose College, Davenport; and a master of religious education degree at Seattle University, Seattle, Wash. She held an Iowa K-12 Professional Music Teaching Certificate. She taught upper elementary grades, as well as music and choir, at parochial schools in Clinton and Danbury, Iowa, and Rochelle and Toluca, Ill. She was band and chorus director at Spalding Institute, Peoria, Ill.; campus minister at Western Illinois University, Macomb, Ill.; and a religious education instructor at St. Anthony, Manteca, Calif. She also served four years as assistant director of student affairs at Mount St. Clare College in Clinton. Most recently, she ministered in liturgical music ministry and pastoral care at The Alverno, from 1985 to 1998.

A lover of guitar music and song, she was a member of the Clinton Franciscan Singing Sisters. She composed and performed several musical pieces for the group’s album, “Come Along,” recorded in 1972. For many years, she assisted with music for weekly congregational liturgies in Clinton, as well as for Sisters’ funerals, annual retreats and other celebrations and gatherings.


Her funeral Mass was celebrated by Msgr. Francis Henricksen on May 5 at The Canticle, home of the Sisters of St. Francis in Clinton. She was intered at St. Irenaeus Cemetery in Clinton.

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