Shirley Miller, RSCJ has been walking in the paths of many RSCJ before her in thoughtful prayer, work, and deed. She has touched many a student’s life through her intellect, common sense, and clear love of life as an educator. She also possesses strong leadership and business skills that would take her in a different direction allowing her to meld all of these qualities into even more meaningful work and create a legacy that will endure.
Sister Miller grew up in small towns in Nebraska and Iowa with a faith-filled family. She was first introduced to the Society of the Sacred Heart when she visited her older sister, who attended Duchesne College. On campus, she felt an immediate sense of belonging and quickly decided that she, too, wanted to attend Duchesne. As a student, she admired the RSCJ’s “fun-loving,” “compassionate” nature and appreciated their unwavering belief in their students. She recalls, “The RSCJ were the happiest nuns I had ever met.” After graduating college in 1963, she worked for two years, but felt “restless and was yearning for something “more” – a more committed life, a life of prayer and reflection, a life in community, a life of service.” In response to this call, she made her first vows with the Society in 1968.
She began her educator’s career as an RSCJ at Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart in Lake Forest, Illinois, and was there for four years where she taught English, Religion, was the Dean of Students and worked in the boarding school. She was sent to Duchesne Academy in 1972 where she taught religion and worked on her Masters Degree in Religious Studies at St. Thomas in Houston. Sister Miller became principal of Duchesne-Omaha in 1978 and served in that capacity until 1989.
During her last three summers at the school in Omaha, Sr. Miller completed her Masters Degree in Administration at Notre Dame. From there she was sent to the Academy of the Sacred Heart, the Rosary, in New Orleans where she was headmistress from 1989-2003. She loved her time spent working in an educational environment because, “the days were filled with giving and receiving God’s love. The whole mission of the school was to reveal the love of the Heart of Jesus.”
In 2003, Sister Miller, having been a successful school administrator, opened the first mission advancement office for the Society to implement an annual giving program. As she grew in this role as the Director of Mission Advancement, it became evident that the Society would need to take steps to secure their future. Sister Miller spearheaded the In Mission for Life Campaign to help the Society fund present and future ministries and the present and future care of the elderly sisters. Sister Miller brought full circle her love of the religious order to which she belongs along with her ability to communicate so effectively to all she meets in order to make this campaign a successful reality. She appreciates that the role offers “daily opportunities to listen to those in need, to reach out to those who are ill, to reconnect with those who are alienated, [and] to thank those who continue to reveal God’s love to all of the RSCJ.”
Even outside of an academic environment, Sister Miller’s work carried on the spirit of her ‘educator’s heart.’ She explains, “education is at the heart of our mission – whether I am communicating the hopes and dreams and needs of the Society and asking for contributions or working with our mission advancement staff and volunteers.” As of January 2013, the campaign has raised $40million in gifts, pledges, and bequests securing the future and legacy of the order we so dearly love.
Because Sister Miller has helped to secure the legacy of the Society today and having inspired many by her love of the Sacred Heart and zest for life, the Associated Alumnae and Alumni of the Sacred Heart recognized her as the 2013 Woman of Conscience Award recipient.