Sister Marlene’s Lasting Wisdom


Sister Marlene at a festive dinner in the dining room of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois.

By Sister Marlene Miller, OSB

Sister Marlene served as Dean of Students at St. Mary’s Academy, the Benedictine boarding school in Nauvoo, Illinois, until it closed in 1997. Josephine Barrett ’80 said, “Sister Marlene had a wicked laugh that came straight from her heart. When she was tickled everyone knew it. She gave girls their allowance and pink slips for infractions (generally work cleaning the school or dorm). She really was a very quick thinker and seldom missed anything … spoken or implied. I liked Sister Marlene from day one.”

Other students said, “Sister Marlene shaped my life at St. Mary’s.” And, “Sister Marlene was there when I needed someone to talk to.”

Here, Sister Marlene reflects on her work with the students, sharing the still-invaluable wisdom that undergirded her life with them.

Our most important work with high school girls at St. Mary’s Academy was to guide each girl to see her own worth both as a person and as a woman.

Each girl had potential to be a strong, independent woman with good thinking skills and the ability to problem-solve as issues would arise in her life.

We helped her see education as a priority in her life and a goal to be reached with hard work and effort.

Each girl was to consider the whole person she was becoming … physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

We guided her to stand on her own and make her own well-informed decisions/choices without needing to depend on others. To seek advice or counsel, but in the end, make her own decisions and live with the consequences.

We also guided her to live with success as well as failure, because not all of life is a success story! In fact, the failures build character and prepare us to move forward, not backward.

All of our students came from a variety of backgrounds, but whether they were international students or from the United States, they were guided to be true to themselves.

Whether they chose to focus on raising a family or carving a career, our graduates went into the world as women of integrity and courage.

We are grateful for every single one of them, and keep them all in prayer.


2 thoughts on “Sister Marlene’s Lasting Wisdom

  1. These comments all appeared on our Facebook page. They are written by St. Mary’s Academy grads, and have been edited for length and style.

    Alanna Nasoff Sullivan: Oh my god! Sister Marlene!!! She was amazing and she looks fantastic!

    Jean Starr: She and Sister Mary Joseph came to my house for dinners and they always insisted on doing the dishes! Great time and conversation! Looks great!

    Maryelvis Sinton: Wish I lived closer to be able to enjoy their continued fellowship and love

    Debra Denniston: The sisters at St. Mary’s, including Sr. Marlene, completely turned my life around. I will be forever grateful to all of them. ❤

    Catherine Thomas Baggett: The sisters did a great job with all of us I thank them and my family for the woman I am today.

    Denise Ralston Coleman: Sister Marlene is a very special person. Forty years later, I still think of her often!

    Diana While Holderby: Love and miss you Sister Marlene! #stmarysgirls #SMA

    Kathy Sommers: Excellent!

    Tina Mickiewicz: This brought back some wonderful memories of my time working alongside Sr. Marlene at SMA. A special place❤️

    Angie Mier: I asked Ben Mier the other day who his favorite teacher was at Holy Trinity…and he said Sr. Marlene!!

    Alicia Munoz Martinez: Greetings!!!😍🙏

    Lisamarie Davis: I will be forever grateful for her not giving up on me

    Deborah Corcuera Davila 💜💓💜💓💜

    Paula Daly Cunningham: Sr. Marlene is a favorite of our family!

    Daniela Lôpez: A great persone sr marlene 💜💜💜💜

    Adriana Villalobos De Cepeda: Sister Marlene!!!❤️ Send you a big hug!!

    Judy Koechle: What a great picture of a super Lady. You look young as always Sr. Marlene

    Juliana Wegeng Kozik ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Joan Bernhardt: Hi Sister Marlene! Hope all is well


  2. Love the word ‘guided’! From my recollection, it was more like a kick in the kiester! But obviously with love the intended result! Thanks Sr. Sneaky know it all! Now I understand better! We were peas in a pod!!! 🙂


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