A Woman of Mercy


Anne McMillan was born in Mildura on July 15, 1949 on the cusp of the Second World War and grew up in Cardross.  Mildura High School and Sacred Heart College Ballarat East saw to the end of her secondary education.  At this stage Anne felt the call to religious life, but her father insisted she have some career before doing so, so she trained as a librarian and subsequently worked in Colac and Mildura before joining the Sisters of Mercy, Ballarat East in 1962 where she was known as Sr. Mary Philippa.  In 1964 Vatican II was 'in the wind' and this event, in many ways, was to shape Anne's life and ministry.

Anne originally trained as a teacher and taught in primary schools around Ballarat along with time in Robinvale. The library again ‘called’ and Anne was given the task of setting up the library at Sacred Heart College Ballarat East and in many of the country schools which were staffed by Sisters of Mercy.  At the invitation of Fr Barry Ryan in 1977/1978, Anne established the Resource Centre in the Religious Education Centre – an asset for all involved in school, parish and diocesan education.
On-going education was part and parcel of Anne’s life – for herself and those with whom she ministered. In 1985 Anne completed a Bachelor of Theology at Catholic Theological College (the former seminary in Clayton) and followed this later with a Master’s Degree in Theology at Notre Dame University USA. She returned to the Diocesan offices where over many years she worked in several areas - drawing up and the implementing of policies and education in same, the bottom line of which was ensuring that the laity were able, and with confidence, to gather in their communities on a regular basis to celebrate their faith.
The notion of celebration whether it be in a small country parish of the Diocese or one to be held in the Cathedral was of great importance to Anne. Anne made sure that the ‘People of God’ were invited - travelling great distances to be involved - whether this celebration was an ordination of priest or deacon, installation of and consecration of a bishop, Mass of the Oils, Rite of Election or a funeral.
The Rite of Christian Initiation – RCIA – one of the gifts from Anne to the diocese - travelling far and wide to promote and assist parishes with its implementation.
The world of computers entered our world over these times and Anne ‘took to them like a duck to water’ sharing her learnings with the Sisters of Mercy and the wider church community. Her ‘productions’, which complemented her artistic flare, can be seen in many places especially in the Diocese and the Mercy world.
This publication Our Diocesan Community - known as ODC - is in no small way due to Anne’s belief in the power of communication throughout the Diocese and beyond.
Whether Anne was dealing with ‘the poor at the door’, the complainant on the phone or the appreciative isolated parishioner, she said ‘To me, the resilience and commitment of the people and clergy in the face of the sexual abuse, droughts and bushfires, unemployment and changing demographics is nothing short of heroic and immensely special. There are still good news stories emerging from parish and diocesan life and it is clear that the mission of Jesus continues to be carried forward. It would be my hope that this continues to be supported and made possible into the future’. (ODC April 2015)

Anne died peacefully on September 8, 2021 in St John of God Hospital, Ballarat, aged 82 years. May she rest in peace.  Anne is buried at the Ballarat New Cemetery Roman Catholic C Section 1 Grave 27.


Search Records