Obituary: Franciscan Sister Mary Cecilia Schmitt

Sister Mary Cecilia Schmitt, 92, died July 1 at St. Francis Convent, Little Falls. A memorial Mass to celebrate her life will be held at a later time.

Joan Schmitt was born March 27, 1928, the second of three children, to Nicholas and Anna (Donnay) Schmitt in Rice. She attended District #30 elementary school and graduated from St. Francis High School in Little Falls.

Joan entered St. Francis Convent Jan. 31, 1946. On Aug. 12, 1946, she was accepted into the novitiate and received the name Sister Mary Cecilia. She made her first vows Aug. 12, 1948, and her final vows Aug. 12, 1951. She was a Franciscan Sister for 74 years.

Originally self-taught in music, she began taking professional lessons while in high school. Sister Mary Cecilia earned a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in music education from the University of Illinois in Urbana. She ministered as coordinator of music at that university while obtaining her degree.  

She served as a teacher and parish musician in several parishes, including Fergus Falls, Browns Valley, Little Falls, Waite Park, Morris and Foley. Sister Cecilia taught and administered in music for 60 years — with half of those years in Little Falls. After St. Francis High School closed, Sister Cecilia continued to teach piano and eventually founded St. Francis Music Center. Later she moved to St. Cloud and opened St. Francis Music Studios there.

Sister Cecilia served actively on many committees and boards relating to music and the arts including the Board of Directors of the Little Falls Symphony, the Heartland Orchestra Board and Very Special Arts of Minnesota.

She did a considerable amount of writing. Her most outstanding contributions were “Rapport and Success in Music Education,” which became a college text, and “Music and Dance.” In addition, she wrote her family genealogy in “The Donnay Story” and “The Schmitt Story” as well as a book, “Palm Weaving.”

Sister Cecilia was preceded in death by her parents and her brothers Ralph and Thomas and his wife Darlene (Buersken). Survivors include sister-in-law Mary Lou (Preusser), nieces, nephews and her Franciscan Community.


Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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