Groups that visit La Salle Retreat Center will soon be walking the same halls as a man who is on the path to sainthood.
Christian Brother James Miller attended the junior novitiate at what was then known as La Salle Institute in Glencoe. It is now a retreat center on 180 scenic acres that hosts more than 50 retreats a year. Brother Miller, a native of Stevens Point, Wis., was shot to death at the age of 37 on Feb. 13, 1982, in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. He had been repairing a wall at the De La Salle Indian School where he was missioned. Many have said he was thought to have been martyred over the brothers’ efforts to keep the indigenous boys from being forced into the military during the Guatemalan Civil War.
Pope Francis recognized Brother Miller as a martyr last year, leading to his beatification, the final step before canonization. A beatification Mass will be celebrated on Dec. 7 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Huehuetenango. He will be the first De La Salle Christian Brother from the United States to be beatified. In general, a miracle attributed to Brother Miller would need to be verified by the Vatican in order for him to be canonized.
In St. Louis, an open house celebrating Brother Miller’s beatification will be held Monday, Dec. 9, at La Salle Retreat Center (see related). Students at Christian Brothers College High School also will remember him at an all-school Mass on Dec. 9. Brother Bill Brynda, a member of CBC’s class of 1950, who knew and worked with Brother Miller in Guatemala, will share his memories with students.
Brother Bernard Brungardt, one of four Christian Brothers remaining in St. Louis who now lives at La Salle, met Brother Miller in the early 1980s during a visit to Guatemala. He recalled the soon-to-be-Blessed Miller as “a very jovial person. He was a very outgoing kind of person. You could certainly say he was a hard worker — a great organizer.”
As a juniorate student at La Salle, Brother Miller and the other students took on jobs to support the community, such as farming the dairy cattle, making furniture, repairing shoes and tending the chickens and turkeys.
“It was a self-sustaining facility, because nothing else was out here,” said La Salle president Michelle Cook, who noted at its peak, there were about 300 men living at the institute, including students in formation with the juniorate and novitiate, retired brothers and teachers. “It was the hub for the Midwest.”
Brother Miller met the Christian Brothers, who were teaching at his high school in Wisconsin. He left school after his freshman year to pursue becoming a Christian Brother and came to La Salle in 1959. He graduated from La Salle in June of 1962, and that August received his robes to become a Christian Brother.
Just three years later in 1965, La Salle graduated its last juniorate class, and in 1977 the novitiate moved to Toronto, thus ending its time as a house of formation. In 1978, La Salle began a new apostolate as a retreat center.
At a recent reunion at La Salle, several alumni shared stories of living and working with Brother Miller. Cook recalled how “they all said he was very hard working, fairly quiet most of the time. But when he had an opinion, he stood by it.”
What hit her the most was that they were talking about someone who is on the path to sainthood. This wasn’t some saint who lived centuries ago in a far away land, but rather someone who lived in a recent lifetime. Cook said his example makes others feel that sainthood is somehow attainable.
We’re always taught to strive for saintliness, Cook said. We’re all working toward that path, and perhaps we won’t ever be formally recognized by the Church or die as a martyr for the faith, but sainthood can be attainable through our small acts of holiness.
“I remember as a youth minister hearing someone who said we’re all saints,” Cook said. “Maybe we’re not dying for our cause, but we’re reaching out and helping people every day. Maybe it’s sitting with someone who is eating lunch by themselves, or feeding the homeless.”
La Salle Retreat Center will
host an open house on Monday, Dec. 9, in celebration of Brother James
Miller’s beatification. The center will be open for tours from 8:30
a.m.-4:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome to explore the spaces where he
worked and studied while living there. Videos and other information will
be available. A Rosary will be prayed at 9 a.m., followed by a
presentation from Christian Brother Alan Parham.
center is located at 2101 Rue De La Salle Drive, off Highway 109 in
Wildwood. For more information, call (636) 938-5374 or visit lasalleretreat.org.
>> More on Brother James Miller
University has produced several videos with De La Salle Christian
Brothers who shared their memories of Brother Miller. See bit.ly/2XUkoWT.
Theodore Drahmann, FSC, has written “Hermano Santiago: The Life and
Times of Brother James Miller, FSC,” via St. Mary’s Press. To order a
copy, visit bit.ly/33jA72Y.
Jerry Hinders, maintenance staffer at La Salle Retreat Center recalls time spent with Brother James Miller: bit.ly/2XZ3OW5
>> La Salle Institute history
At the invitation of
Archbishop Peter Kenrick, the Christian Brothers took charge of the
Catholic Protectorate in Glencoe and opened an orphanage in 1876 that
accommodated 150 boys. The orphanage was destroyed by a fire in 1885,
and the Christian Brothers purchased the property from the Archdiocese
of St. Louis.
Built on the stone foundation of the orphanage, the
three-story main building of La Salle Institute opened in 1886. The
novitiate received three novices, and by the end of the year, there were
eight novices and four postulants. In 1888, the juniorate program for
high school students opened. West and east wings were added over time.
its peak, La Salle had 300 men living and working on the
self-sustaining property, including juniorate and novitiate students,
retired brothers and teachers. In 1965, the final juniorate class
graduated, and in 1977 the novitiate moved to Toronto.
In 1978, La
Salle began a new apostolate as a retreat center. Over the years, it
has closed and reopened its efforts to offer retreat programs, and today
now hosts more than 50 retreats a year on the grounds.
For more information, visit lasalleretreat.org or call (636) 938-5374.
Source: “On This Holy Ground: A Brief Walk Through the History of La Salle Retreat Center”