Sister Catherine McKillop, formerly known as Sister James Anita McKillop, died on December 30, 2018, at the Dominican Life Center in Adrian, Michigan. She was 87 years of age and in the 69th year of her religious profession in the Adrian Dominican Congregation.
Sister was born in Wishaw Lanark, Scotland, to James and Catherine (Buchanan) McKillop. She graduated from St. Paul High School in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and received a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in elementary education, both from Barry College (University) in Miami, Florida.
Sister Catherine spent 25 years ministering in elementary education in Chicago; Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and St. Petersburg, Florida; Montgomery, Alabama; and Guayama, Puerto Rico. This includes six years as principal and teacher at St. Bede School in Montgomery, two years as principal at St. Ann School in West Palm Beach, and five years as principal at St. Jude School in St. Petersburg.
Sister Catherine also served the Adrian Dominican Sisters: four years as Co-provincial for St. Rose of Lima Province in Florida, eight years as director of retirement in Adrian, and nine years as activity assistant for the Dominican Life Center. She later ministered as Coordinator of Volunteer Services for St. Leonard’s Ministries in Chicago, which provides temporary housing and other services for formerly incarcerated men and women.
Sister became a resident of the Dominican Life Center in Adrian in 2017. She is survived by two sisters, Patricia Young of Clinton Township and Marguerite DeJaeghere of Sterling Heights, and a brother, Joseph McKillop of Roseville, all in Michigan. She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers James and John.
Welcome of Sister Catherine will be on Thursday, January 3, 2019, at 6:00 p.m. in the Dominican Life Center lobby; the Wake will follow from 6:15 to 7:00 p.m. in the Rose Room. The Reception of the Body and Vigil Prayer will be at 7:00 p.m. in St. Catherine Chapel. The Funeral Mass will be offered in St. Catherine Chapel on Friday, January 4, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. Both the Vigil Prayer and the Funeral Mass will be live streamed. The Rite of Committal will be in the Congregation cemetery.
Memorial gifts may be made to Adrian Dominican Sisters, 1257 East Siena Heights Drive, Adrian, Michigan, 49221. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Anderson-Marry Funeral Home, Adrian.
Due to a technical error, the vigil and funeral services for Sister Catherine McKillop were not recorded.
We sincerely apologize to those who had hoped to view those recordings.
Left: From left, Sisters Catherine McKillop and Grace Dougherty, June 2011
Right: From left, Sisters Catherine McKillop, Grace Dougherty, Emmy Chelagat Choge, and Joyce LaVoy
Left: Sister Catherine McKillop, standing, left, with her family, from left, Joseph McKillop, Patricia Young, and Marguerite DeJaeghere. Seated is Grandmother McKillop.
Members of the 2009 Class of Diamond Jubilarians are, back row, from left: Sisters Andrea Broutin, Mary Ann Konieski, Jeanette Jabour, Joan Delaplane, Jean Denomme, and Elizabeth Flaherty; middle row, from left, Sisters Joyce LaVoy, Catherine McKillop, Eleanor Stech, Nelda Ann Klein, Barbara Mary Saynay, and Marie Houle; and front row, from left, Sisters Mae Tack, Mary Sharon Moran, Betty Jenkins, and Donna Markham (Prioress, standing).
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Such sad news for so many of us St. Jude’s kids. Sr. Catherine was able to make such a difference to so many of our lives. Many thank you’s And may you Rest In Peace.
How fondly I recall Sister Catherine. When we lived and taught together in Guyama, Puerto Rico so many years ago, Sister James Anita, as she was known then, was kind and supportive in her quiet and friendly way. May she rest in peace.
Cathy McKillop—Aunt Cathy, to me—was an inspirational figure in my life and in the lives of so many others, I trust. I’ve never known anyone who more authentically embodied her values and creed—service, selflessness, decency, integrity, modesty, honesty.Some people are meant to be pioneering leaders, and that was certainly true of Cathy McKillop. Born just 11 years after women gained the right to vote in the U.S., she left home two weeks after high school to join the Adrian Dominican Congregation—one of three occupations that were predominantly available to women. She’d go on to receive a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree—an unthinkable proposition in those days—and serve in leadership roles as an educator for elementary students in Chicago, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the brutally segregated Montgomery, Alabama. And those were just the first 25 years of a 69-year career. As impressive as her professional accomplishments were, it’s hard to not think that she might’ve been born before her time. To what heights might she have climbed if she’d have been born into the opportunities of today?When she wasn’t serving her profession, she was helping a bustling family of immigrant parents and first-generation children to put down roots and navigate lives in search of the American dream. The oldest of six kids, she helped raise her siblings and supported them as they left the nest and started their own families. And she guided them through the loss of both parents and two brothers.She was incredibly kind and thoughtful to her family, always there in moments of need or celebration. Truth be told, though, she was also more than willing to engage in some tough love; to deliver hard truths, even if they were unsolicited or unwanted. But these observations—sometimes pointed—always came from a place of love, never malice. And I suspect most recipients of her wisdom knew she was on to something, whether they wanted to admit it or not. This is what leadership looks like.Speaking personally, I am grateful for all the times she was there for me. When I was a rambunctious (read: occasionally bratty) kid, she was a voice of authority who helped give me guidance and structure. When I was marking the early milestones of life—graduating from here or there, marriage—she was there to celebrate with me. And when I’d breeze through town and ask to stay the night or enjoy a meal together, she always made time. As is too often the case, I didn’t sufficiently appreciate those efforts in the moment, but I certainly do now. And I hope she knew even partially how much I admired her.When asked how she’d like to be remembered, she asked us to think of her as someone who was grateful for her life, as a kind and loving person, and as someone who had a gift for listening. I’m absolutely certain she’ll be remembered—and emulated—for those virtues and so much more. I’m saddened by her death, and I’m heartbroken to be missing her wake and funeral. But it comforts me to know that a new life is on the verge of beginning, just as another has ended. I can only hope that hers will be as full and loving and purposeful as was Aunt Cathy’s.
Our Adrian Dominican cemetery with its circular headstones is a beautiful place of rest for women who gave their lives in service to God—and a peaceful place for contemplation and remembrance.
We will post memorial reflections on our faithfully departed Sisters and Associates. If you would like to reflect on a Sister or Associate who has gone before us, please send your reflections – no more than 500 to 600 words – to
We invite you to meet some of the wonderful women who have recently crossed into eternity.