Birth: September 25, 1927
Profession: May 4, 1954
Death: May 17, 2017
Margaret Mary Miller, a Religious of the Sacred Heart, was born on September 25, 1927, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Margaret Clinton and Claude Henry Francis Miller. Marg, as she was known by all who knew her, had four siblings: Claude, Jr., Edward, Rita Ann and Bernard. Edward died of pneumonia at the age of two. Marg was the last surviving member of her family. She described her family as devoted to one other and remembered many fun times with them. Her parents inspired a happy and loving home. She described her father as gifted, hardworking and generous, and her mother as a beacon of goodness and kindness, with a spirit of gratitude and a woman of deep prayer, qualities she passed on to Marg. Her unfailing love and care gave a spirit of freedom to her children.
Marg attended Holy Name grade school and high school in Omaha, Nebraska, run by the Servants of Mary. She was a good student, excelling in her classes while participating in sports, practicing the piano and accompanying others in recitals and concerts. She learned to play the organ in seventh grade and went on to become the sub-organist in high school, playing and singing four high masses during the week and playing the organ at the 10 o’clock Sunday Mass. With her excellent grades, Marg received a scholarship in music to Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, Kansas. At the same time, she was asked by her pastor to accept the positon of parish secretary and organist. She was a little torn with this decision, but she believed her parents could not afford to send another child through college, so she accepted the position for two years. Following this, Marg decided to attend Duchesne College in Omaha, which was familiar to her, as she had been asked by former classmates to accompany them as vocal soloists for different functions at the school. She began classes at Duchesne in 1947.
During her sophomore year, Marg felt she needed to decide on her next step: a religious vocation, marriage or single life. She was drawn to the Religious of the Sacred Heart through her experience at Duchesne, but when she broached the subject with her parents, who supported her vocation to religious life, she was asked to speak first to her pastor. Her pastor also recognized her vocation but did not think the Society of the Sacred Heart would be a good fit for Marg, saying “That is no place for a poor girl whose family could not afford a dishwasher.” Besides, she would have to give up her music. The pastor believed Marg would be better off with the Servants of Mary. Believing in the wisdom of her advisor, Marg succumbed and entered the Servite community, all the while knowing in her heart that she had a vocation to the Society of the Sacred Heart. She left the Servites after one year, found a job in a public high school as an accompanist to a chorus, and reestablished her relationship with Duchesne. Mother Vera Rogers, the dean at that time, encouraged Marg to graduate from college before entering the Society, which she did in May 1951, earning a BA in English. Then, on October 19, 1951, Marg finally entered the Society of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood in Albany, New York.
Marg embraced life at Kenwood. One of her happiest moments was when, after six months as a postulant, on May 1, 1952, she became a novice. Her experience of the novitiate was enriched by the example of the mistress of novices, Mother Marie Louise Schroen, her love of the spiritual exercises, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and, always, her music. She played the organ to accompany the novitiate choir as well as at ceremonies and jubilees. After making First Vows on May 5, 1954, Marg began her long ministerial career in the Society, returning to Omaha to teach and to be dean of students at Duchesne Academy. In 1959, she left for probation in Rome and pronounced her Final Vows on February 8, 1960. She remained in Rome at the Trinità dei Monti, as organist for an international alumnae meeting and to teach English in the school. Returning to the States, she taught ninth grade in both Lake Forest, Illinois, and Omaha, until 1963 when she was named principal of Duchesne Academy.
In addition to roles in the schools, Marg served in provincial administration, first in 1969 as member of the provincial team while also superior at Duchesne, then in 1970 as provincial of the Chicago Province for six years. That same year, she earned a M.S. in Guidance and Counseling from Creighton University in Omaha. During subsequent years, she enrolled in a spiritual leadership program at Loyola University in Chicago, attended the Pan-American Assembly of Provincials in 1974 in Talca, Chile, and the General Chapter in Rome as provincial in 1976. Following this, she worked with sisters in their dispensaries in Egypt. After just six weeks in Egypt, she agreed to go to Uganda, but she contracted hepatitis and was greatly disappointed that her trip was canceled. She returned to the States and enrolled at Creighton University for a Christian Spirituality Program. She then returned to Duchesne Academy in Omaha as teacher of theology and music. From 1977 to 1986, she served as director of Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago. Marg loved every minute of this position and was involved in all aspects of the school.
Sister Miller’s next ministry took a very different turn. She was asked to be the director of Pax Christi, the retirement community at Kenwood, the Society’s health care facility in Albany, New York. While having had no previous experience with the elderly and infirm, she came to love the work “with a passion.” She treasured the sisters and the staff. She contributed to the community life through her love and compassion and in turn was much loved and respected by her sisters. Following Kenwood, she spent many years in Canada. She received a MA in Spirituality at Regis College. She also worked as a staff associate at Loyola House, the Institute of Ignatian Spirituality in Guelph, Ontario, and finally in Prince George, British Columbia, where she worked for ten years with Donna Dolan, RSCJ, in the Diocesan Renewal Center giving retreats and spiritual direction and teaching in the lay formation program. During this time, Sister Miller was invited to facilitate provincial chapters in the Canadian and Australia-New Zealand Provinces. In 2004, she was invited by the provincial of Uganda-Kenya to facilitate a provincial assembly, to give retreats in both countries and to walk with young sisters in discernment.
The following year, 2005, she volunteered to replace as director Nancy Salisbury, RSCJ, who had died prematurely at Oakwood, the RSCJ retirement center in Atherton, California. She held this position for two years until she herself turned eighty. She dearly loved the sisters and the staff and was loved by them.
Sister Miller officially retired in 2007, but volunteered for a short time at the Society NGO Office in New York. She then went to her beloved Africa, after making a retreat in Joigny, France. When she arrived in Uganda in 2008, she was asked to fill in for the mistress of novices for six weeks, which she found to be a delightful experience. She had planned to be in Uganda for two years, but stayed for only eleven months because of a critical health issue. She returned to the States, arriving at Oakwood in May of 2009, this time as a resident, but with the courage and faith that had characterized her all her life. As she stated so eloquently, “Now I do not have any plans of my own. I try to accept God’s loving and forgiving guidance each day and to serve God in whatever way I can, giving glory to the heart of God by being positive and constructive. I am grateful for the extra time of contemplative prayer as well.”
For the next eight years Sister Miller planned and accompanied the community liturgies, even as her eyesight became worse and worse. Finally, her great heart gave out, and she died on May 17, 2017. Marg is survived by her nieces and nephews and her sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Her funeral will be in the Oakwood chapel on Saturday, June 10, at 10:00 a.m., followed by burial in the Oakwood cemetery.
Memorial Contributions may be made to the Society of the Sacred Heart, 4120 Forest Park Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri 63108.