Blessed Brother James Miller

This article was posted on: April 26, 2024

James Miller was born in Stevens Point on Sept. 21, 1944, and grew up on his family’s farm just outside of Ellis.

A Stevens Point martyr on the path to sainthood

When driving along Highway 66 between Stevens Point and Rosholt, you will drive through the small hamlet of Ellis. There you will find the now-closed St. Martin Church and its cemetery in Ellis. Unless you happen to know someone buried in St. Martin Cemetery, you probably would not think of stopping there. That being said, you should stop anyway: in addition to the many faithful Christians buried there over the years, there is one martyr laid to rest there who is on his way to becoming a saint in the Church: Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC.

James Miller was born in Stevens Point on Sept. 21, 1944, and grew up on his family’s farm just outside of Ellis. He attended school in a one-room schoolhouse before transferring to Pacelli High School in Stevens Point. It was at Pacelli where he encountered the Brothers of the Christian Schools, a religious institute of teaching brothers founded in France in 1725 by St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle. As Brother James recounted, due to the brothers’ “collective good influence” he decided to join the junior novitiate the following year. He finished high school at the La Salle Institute juniorate in Glencoe, Mo. He persevered in his vocation and, after finishing high school, entered the Christian Brothers’ novitiate in Winona, Minn. There he began his university studies at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Brother James graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1966 with a degree in modern languages (Spanish) and began teaching at Cretin High School, now known as Cretin-Derham Hall, located in St. Paul. He taught Spanish, coached soccer and served as the maintenance supervisor. The last task earned him the nickname of “Brother Fix-it.”

After professing perpetual vows as a Christian Brother, he followed God’s call to be a missionary in Central America and went to Bluefields, Nicaragua. There, much like at Cretin High School, he served as a teacher, soccer coach and maintenance supervisor. He was even named the local fire chief after he reorganized and retrained the local volunteer fire department. In January 1981, still desiring to serve as a missionary, he was assigned to Guatemala. In Huehuetenango, he taught at the Colegio De La Salle and also directed the Casa Indígena (Indian Center) where he supervised, counseled, managed maintenance and farmed.

On Feb. 13, 1982, three men shot Brother James Miller six times while he was fixing a wall at the Casa Indígena. Brother James’ body was returned to the United States, and a funeral Mass was held at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn., with Archbishop John Roach presiding. Two days later, on Feb. 18, a funeral Mass was held at Sacred Heart Church in Polonia with Bishop Frederick Freking presiding. Brother James was laid to rest in St. Martin Cemetery in Ellis, which is only two miles away from Sacred Heart Church.

In 2006, the Diocese of Huehuetenango agreed to take up the cause for the canonization of Brother James Miller. On Nov. 8, 2018, the Vatican issued a decree of martyrdom, stating that Brother James Miller died in hatred of the faith. This led to his beatification on Dec. 7, 2019, in Huehuetenango in a Mass celebrated by Cardinal José Luis Lacunza Maestrojuán. Blessed James Miller is the fourth American-born person to be beatified and to receive the title “Blessed.” He can be declared a saint with the future approval of a miracle attributed to Blessed James Miller’s intercession. For that reason, everyone should cultivate a devotion to Blessed James Miller and pray for his intercession, especially for miracles, and if you are driving on Highway 66,  stop and visit his grave in Ellis.

Submit a prayer intention here.

Story by Father Alan Guanella, Pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Wisconsin Rapids
Published in the May/June 2024 issue of Catholic Life Magazine

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