Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC, gave his life to God when he became a vowed De La Salle Brother of the Christian Schools. He gave his life to God again – and declared a martyr for his faith — when killed by three masked men in Guatemala while fixing a wall in a courtyard garden. The Brother James Miller Garden House at Dunrovin Christian Brothers Retreat Center is named in honor of this man of courage, generosity, faith, and zeal.
Born in 1944 and raised on a farm near Steven’s Point, Wisconsin, Brother James devoted his life to teaching children. While a teacher at Cretin High School in St. Paul during the late 1960s, Brother James visited Dunrovin, a place of rest and recreation for the Brothers. During that time and still today, Cretin brought students on youth retreats at Dunrovin.
However, Brother James’ passion for students and the poor took him to Nicaragua, where he taught at both the elementary and secondary levels. During the Nicaraguan revolution in 1979, he moved to a Brothers’ school in Guatemala. In both countries, students were registered illegally into the military, essentially kidnapped. As a protector, Brother James (“Santiago”) advocated for the students until the military reluctantly released the boys.
Despite adverse conditions, Brother James continued his ministry to the poor in Guatemala. In early 1982, the four Brothers living in the Huehuetenango community were warned that their lives were at risk. They prayed. Certainly these men must have considered the “heroic vow” given to the Christian Brothers by their Founder. Independently, all four men chose to stay and continue their ministry. A month later, Brother James was gunned down and killed instantly. He is remembered for his infectious laughter, huge smile and sense of a good joke, courage, perseverance, and love for the children. Brother James truly lived the words of our founder, Saint John Baptist De La Salle:
Are you ready to give your very life, so dear to you are the young people entrusted to you?”Saint John Baptist De La Salle
Timeline of Blessed Brother James’ life
- September 21, 1944 – Brother James was born on a farm near Stevens Point, Wisconsin.
- August 1962 – James Alfred Miller accepted the habit of the Christian Brothers and took the religious name “Leo William.”
- 1966 – Undergraduate from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, Winona
- Taught at Cretin-Derham Hall High School in Saint Paul, Minnesota
- August 1969 – Brother James made his perpetual vows to the Christian Brothers.
- 1969 – Volunteered to teach in Nicaragua
- After his work in Minnesota, Brother JamesAfter his work in Minnesota, Brother James (Santiago in Spanish) worked ten years in Nicaragua and two years in Guatemala. He lived in community with other De La Salle Christian Brothers at the Colegio De La Salle. All were administrators and/or teachers. The city they worked in was surrounded by indigenous villages whose youth unable to receive a secondary education. Serving these students follows the call of our Founder, Saint John Baptist De La Salle.
- 1974 – Received a Masters Degree in Spanish at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona
- 1979 – 1981 – Due to extreme political tensions, Brother James (who had returned to his baptismal name), taught at Cretin-Derham Hall High School again, where the students affectionately called him “Mr. Fix-It.” Because of his skills for tinkering, the religious symbol for Brother James is a wrench.
- January 1981 – Longing to live the charisms of the Christian Brothers in a life of faith and zeal lived for the poor, Brother James moves to Huehuetenango, Guatemala, where he is again immersed in a country of political strife and violence.
The level of personal violence is reaching appalling proportions (murders, tortures, kidnappings, threats) and the Catholic Church is being persecuted because of its option for the poor and oppressed. God knows why he continues to call me to Guatemala…and I pray to God for the grace and strength to serve Him faithfully by my presence among the poor and oppressed. I place my life in His providence; I place my trust in Him.Blessed Brother James Miller, FSC, in a 1981 Christmas letter written to family
- January/February 1982 — The four Brothers living in the community of Colegio De La Salle, Huehuetenango, prayed together about the dangerous times and place in which they were living. Each individually chose to remain there, in this particular ministry, at this particular time, for love of God’s people.
- February 13, 1982 – Brother James Miller was murdered while he was fixing a wall in a garden courtyard. Three masked gunman opened fire upon him. Brother James died instantly. He was 37 years old.
- December 15, 2009 – The Vatican declares Brother James as a “Servant of God.”
- 2010 – Decree of Validity given for Brother James’ cause of beatification.
- November 8, 2018 – Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing that Brother James Miller died as a martyr.
- December 7, 2019 – Pope Francis celebrates the ceremony in which Brother James is officially beatified. Now called “Blessed Brother James Miller,” He is the first De La Salle Christian Brother from the USA to be beatified.
Prayer asking for the intercession of Blessed Brother James Miller
You heard God’s call to become a Brother of the Christian Schools and so became a sign of faith to youth in the United States and in Central America. You placed your life and your trust in Divine Providence and, for spreading the faith, merited the crown of martyrdom. In a world that denies the dignity of the human person, obtain for us from Divine Providence an ever increasing love of God and our neighbor, especially the poor and oppressed. Obtain for us also the favor we are now asking for [mention request] and the grace and strength to be a witness to Christ’s love to all. Amen.
Blessed Brother James Miller, pray for us. Saint John Baptist De La Salle, pray for us. Live Jesus in our hearts. Forever.