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Sr. Roberta McKinnon

Untitled-1Sister M. Roberta McKinnon

1921 – 2014

It was Saturday, August 13, 1921, that a baby girl was born to Ira and Anna Marie (Derr) McKinnon in Carey, Ohio. The following Monday, August 15, feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, Lorene Rose was baptized at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation.

She attended the elementary school of Our Lady of Consolation, Carey, Ohio. Her freshman year was spent at Carey Public High School. On August 12, 1935 she was invited to attend the religious reception ceremony at St. Francis Convent in Tiffin, Ohio. This event clarified for her a yearning she was experiencing in her young heart. She begged her parents to allow her to attend St. Francis Convent High School and in the fall she began her sophomore year there. On Sunday, January 30, 1938 in the middle of her junior year Lorene Rose entered the postulancy of the Sisters of St. Francis. She was received into the canonical novitiate as Sister Mary Roberta on Thursday, August 11, 1938. During the second year of her novitiate she completed her senior year of high school and graduated in May, 1940.

Sister Roberta received her BA degree from the College of St. Francis, Joliet, IL. She studied at St. Francis de Sales College and at Mary Manse College in Toledo, Ohio, at Alverno College of Music in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and received a Catholic Choirmaster’s Diploma from the Gregorian Institute of America. She received a Master of Music Education degree from the University of Notre Dame in Southbend, Indiana.

Many of us lovingly remember Sister Roberta as an able, enthusiastic teacher and organist at St. Francis Convent and her tireless efforts in preparing us to do the best we could in praising God through music and song whether that be Gregorian Chant for daily Mass, orchestra, piano, organ, other instruments, glee club, or choir practice. Sister Roberta served as a teacher in Ohio elementary schools and as organist at the parishes in Landeck, Custar, and Reed; she ministered in reli-gious education and in social services at Madonna Hall in Willard; and she taught at St. Francis Convent High School in Tiffin. She also taught music education for extension courses for Mary Manse College, Toledo, Ohio, and Madonna College, Livonia, Michigan. She served for ten years in the Diocese of Toledo as the Music Supervisor for the diocesan schools.

Sister Roberta’s desire to serve as missionary was kindled anew when, in the summer of 1970, she spent eight weeks with the sisters in the mission in Chiapas, Mexico. During the next several years she and Sister Jane Schmenk spent their summers serving on the Cherokee reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina. In 1973, using her many gifts especially that of music, Cherokee became her full-time ministry as she worked tirelessly with the students and people she dearly loved.

For her spiritual and social ministry to the Cherokee and non-Cherokee people on the Qualla Boundary, Sister Roberta was awarded the Annual Franciscan Peace-maker Award on August 23, 1992 “in recognition of exemplary Christian ministry in promoting peace, justice and Christian values.”

During her 25 years of service in Cherokee, Sister Roberta generously shared her gift of music and was effectively involved in all levels of pastoral presence and outreach ministry in the parish, in local education, in extension courses for Southwestern College (Sylva, NC), in the diocese, and in ecumenical endeavors.

In 1998, Sister Roberta suffered a stroke and then returned to the Motherhouse where she continued to minister as she was able, as she said, “continuing her jour-ney to eternity.” On August 10, 2010 she became a resident at St. Francis Home. In reflecting on her life, Sister Roberta said that her greatest joy has been God’s gift to her of her vocation with the Sisters of St. Francis in Tiffin, Ohio. This gift was especially celebrated at her various Jubilees. Special highlights for her in-clude earning her Master’s degree in Music at Notre Dame University, going on the Franciscan Pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi, and receiving the Annual Francis-can Peacemaker Award.

Sister Roberta is preceded in death by both parents, four brothers, Gordon, How-ard, Richard and Robert McKinnon, and one sister, Oread Elizabeth McKinnon Haferd (Edward). Surviving is one brother, Aidan James McKinnon.

She was welcomed home by Sister Death on Friday, February 14, 2014. Having “Come before God with happy songs (Ps.100),” she is now enjoying heavenly harmonies beyond our imagination.

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