James Miller (religious brother)

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Leo William Miller
Religious and Martyr
BornJames Alfred Miller
(1944-09-21)21 September 1944
Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States
Died13 February 1982(1982-02-13) (aged 37)
Huehuetenango, Guatemala
Honored inRoman Catholic Church

James Alfred Miller (21 September 1944 – 13 February 1982) - in religious Leo William and known also as Santiago - was an American Roman Catholic professed religious and member of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.[1][2]

Miller served as a teacher first in Cretin High School before being sent to teach in Bluefields in Nicaragua where he remained until his superiors ordered him to leave. He was requested to leave his work in Nicaragua due to political tensions that put Miller at risk of being killed but he was frustrated to be sent back to his native home where he remained for some time to teach.[1][3] He was known for his construction and practical abilities to the point where students at Cretin High School referred to him as "Brother Fix-It". Miller was later sent to Guatemala where he taught and he remained there until he was shot dead while on a ladder. His murder was never resolved despite a long investigation into the assassination.[2][3]

Miller's beatification process opened in Huehuetenango on 2 September 2009 - though the cause's formal introduction came on 15 December 2009 - and Miller became titled as a Servant of God.[1][2] Pope Francis approved Miller's beatification in late 2018 and it is expected to be celebrated in his native United States sometime in 2019.


James Alfred Miller Miller was born premature on 21 September 1944 to farmers in Stevens Point. Miller weighed almost four pounds upon birth but later would stand at six feet two inches and weighed 220 pounds.[2][1][3] He grew up in Custer. In his adulthood he was noted for having a boisterous guffaw that could startle people.

Miller first attended grammar school in his area before he entered high school.[1] He later joined the De La Salle Brothers as a freshman at Pacelli High School and received a master's degree in Spanish from S.M.U. in Winona. It was while a freshman that he first met the De La Salle Brothers. In September 1959 he entered the juniorate in Missouri and was then admitted as a postulant into the order in 1962. He commenced his novitiate in August 1962 then assumed the habit and the religious name "Leo William".[1] But he would later resume using his baptismal name like some of his confreres.

Miller first worked as a teacher in Cretin High School where he taught Spanish and English in addition to religious education. It was also there that he oversaw maintenance and coached football. Miller made his perpetual vows in August 1960.[1]

In 1969 he was sent to Bluefields in Nicaragua where he taught in schools until 1974 when he was sent to Puerto Cabezas and helped build an industrial arts and vocational complex. Under his leadership as director the school he taught at managed grew from 300 to 800 students. He also accepted a task of supervising the construction of ten new rural schools.[1] But his superiors later ordered him to leave Nicaragua in July 1979 due to the Sandinistas revolution that had broken out. This was also exacerbated due to Miller's distant collaboration with the Somoza government which placed him in direct risk of being a Sandinistas victim.[1] Miller maintained distant ties to the Somoza government because he saw that as a good chance to have the government expand the schools according to his former classmate and confrere Francis Carr. But some residents took his cordial relations with the government as tacit support which came to concern his superiors. This grew after Miller received threats to the point that the Sandinistas placed his name on a list of people to be "dealt with".[2]

But he became worried that his leaving would be seen as an act of cowardice and so wrote to the people to tell them that he would return. But Miller was never to return to Nicaragua which frustrated him. He was frustrated with his time back in his native home and wrote that "I'm bored up here" and that "I am anxious to return to Latin America".[2]

He returned to the United States where he taught once again at Cretin High School in St. Paul in Minnesota before he returned to teach in Central America from 1979 to 1981. In 1980 he participated in the De Cristo renewal program in New Mexico. While teaching he fixed things around the school to the point that the students referred to him as "Brother Fix-It" since he dealt with maintenance issues and was often seen with a wrench in his hand. He also assisted students who had forgotten their locker combinations.[1][3] He was later transferred to Guatemala in January 1981 where he would remain for the remainder of his life teaching in Huehuetenango. Miller devoted himself to providing job and leadership skills to the natives in order to ease the oppression the native Guatemalan Indians suffered.

Three hooded and masked men shot and killed Miller during the afternoon on 13 February 1982 as the latter was on a ladder repairing a wall at the De La Salle Indian School at Huehuetenango.[1] Miller died at the scene and died before he hit the ground. He had sent a student inside to get a tool to aid his work and several children witnessed the murder while watching Miller from a window.[2] Unsuccessful attempts were made to find the assassins and the Guatemalan government expressed regret that the case had dragged on for so long. The government later concluded that "subversive criminal elements" were perhaps responsible for the murder and closed the case.[2] His funeral rites were celebrated in both Guatemala and St. Paul before his remains were interred in the Polonia parish in Wisconsin.

There were some who believed that his murder was in retaliation for the work of the order to prevent native males from being conscripted. Despite students being exempt from armed service four men abducted the native student named Epifanio Camposeco to force him to enter on after seizing him in the Huehuetenango marketplace on 31 January 1982. To that end the religious brother Paul Joslin went to the authorities to obtain the student's release between 31 January and 11 February but failed to do so despite the religious' adamant protests. Joslin later recalled that Miller came to his office hours before his murder (in the morning) to inform him that he would be going on a picnic with his class later that afternoon.

Miller's murder in Guatemala came during a string of priests and religious being assassinated such as Blessed Stanley Francis Rother (five months after Miller).[3]


The beatification process opened in Huehuetenango on 2 September 2009 in a diocesan process that later concluded in 2010. This diocesan investigation collected available documentation regarding Miller's life as well as a series of witness testimonies from those who knew Miller. But the formal introduction to the cause came on 15 December 2009 under Pope Benedict XVI after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared "nihil obstat" (nothing against the cause) and titled Miller as a Servant of God. The C.C.S. later validated the diocesan process on 9 July 2010 in Rome while later receiving the Positio dossier for assessment.

Nine theologians that consult the C.C.S. issued unanimous approval to Miller's cause on 20 March 2018. Pope Francis confirmed Miller's beatification in a decree issued on 7 November 2018; the beatification is set to take place in his native United States sometime in 2019.

The current postulator for the cause is the De La Salle brother Rodolfo Cosimo Meoli.


The La Crosse diocese sponsors an annual Brother James Miller Social Justice Award. The "Brother James Miller Fund" was established after Miller's death and aims to continue his work for the poor and oppressed.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Br. Santiago Miller". De La Salle Brothers. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Darrell Ehrlick (4 January 2010). "Martyr, SMU grad a candidate for Roman Catholic sainthood". Winona Daily News. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e Aaron Mayorga (13 February 2017). "Murder of a Lasallian Educator: Remembering Brother James Santiago Miller". The Guadrangle. Retrieved 11 February 2018.

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