Therese Miller, BVM (Therese Emile)

Therese Miller, BVM, 87, died Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2016, at Marian Hall in Dubuque, Iowa. Natural burial Rite of Committal was on Friday, Nov. 25, 2016,in the Marian Hall Chapel. A memorial service and Mass will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, in the Marian Hall Chapel. Burial is in the Mount Carmel cemetery.

She was born in Iowa City, Iowa, on May 15, 1929, to Paul Anson and Theresa Graef Miller. She entered the BVM congregation Feb. 2, 1950, from St. Mary Parish, Iowa City. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1952, and final vows on Aug. 15, 1957.

Therese served as BVM congregational employee, ministering as nurse aide and laundry worker at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, and worked as convent cook in Davenport, both in Iowa. She was an elementary school teacher in Chicago.

She is preceded in death by her parents; brothers Clifford, Peter, Louis, Carl and Joseph; and sisters Alta Miller Reber, Agnes Rocca, Maglene Parizek and Theresa Eckrich. She is survived by nieces, nephewsand the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, with whom she shared life for 66 years.

Sister Therese Miller, BVM (Therese Emile)
Memorial Mass Welcome
Marian Hall, Nov. 30, 2016

Good afternoon and welcome to the celebration of life of our Sister Therese Miller.

Kathryn Miller was born on May 15, 1929, in Iowa City, Iowa, the only child of Paul Anton and Theresa Graef Miller of Iowa City, Iowa. Both of her parents were widowed with children when they married. Kathryn had nine older half-siblings. Her family lost everything during the Depression, but managed to live on produce grown on the family farm where she learned to garden. Kathryn attended St. Mary HS and was a member of the Sodality.

“In my wildest dreams, I never thought of being a sister.” Those were the first words uttered by Therese in a 2008 interview. She continued, “I had my life all planned out. Work on our farm and raise horses. But maybe—maybe. So I mentioned it to Sister Mary Dolors Shaffner, BVM . . . My mother surprised me by saying she had wanted me to become a nun . . . When they said a February entrance date was possible, I said, ‘I think that is what God wants.’” Kathryn entered the congregation on Feb. 2, 1950, and received the name Therese Emile upon her reception on Aug. 15, 1950. She professed first vows on Aug. 15, 1952 and lived 66 years as a BVM.

Therese’s first mission was at Immaculate Conception in Davenport, Iowa, about which she commented, “I was put in charge of the kitchen, totally inexperienced . . . I was able to take a course in quantity cooking . . . I did love to bake.” She taught second and third grades in Chicago at Blessed Sacrament, Holy Cross, St. Agatha and St. Thomas of Canterbury. She credited S.M. Paulus Gensert, BVM, who taught first grade at Blessed Sacrament, with working “miracles” and helping her become a better teacher. Therese served 11 years as a teacher, but her true calling was yet to be revealed.

In an aptly chosen passage from the Gospel of John, Jesus says to his apostles, “If I, therefore, the teacher and master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Therese left the classroom to care for her mother who had had a series of strokes, subsequently dedicating the rest of her life answering the call of Jesus by “washing the feet” of others. After her mother’s death, she worked as a nurse aide and laundress at Marian Hall for 31 years. The sisters used to give their stained garments to her instead of to an aide because she could make them look like new.

Someone who ministered with Therese wrote, “I like to think of her as the servant of the servants. Day in and day out she saw to it that the clothing of our sisters was washed with care, dried, folded to perfection, and if necessary ironed! And if she saw the need for a button or a bit of repair, she either did it herself or brought it to the sewing room. I loved her and was so very grateful for her quiet gentle service.”

A former pastoral care minister recalled the words that our deceased Sister Francis Shea, BVM, at the time a Marian Hall resident, spoke about Therese. She called her “the most holy person she met in her lifetime” and that she went about her daily work “in a quiet, contemplative way in which she attended to each sister’s needs in a very compassionate, gentle manner with a pleasant smile and presence.”

While the words “Therese” and “saint” have been uttered together in recent days, years ago Therese simply commented, “I loved working there. I could do for the sisters all the things I had learned to do for my mother.”

Therese was a spiritual person, one whose sensitive, thoughtful and loving care was generously spent in service of others. She resisted any self-pity and never let her Parkinson’s disease stop her from living her life to the fullest. She enjoyed recordings of Western novels written by Louis L’Amour, going out for a meal, and participating in Mount Carmel activities. She absolutely loved spending time at Two Spiders, especially time spent fishing. She was a great gardener, well known for her tomatoes, grown from plants started from seed in her room. Through the years, she shared the fruit of her vines with those at the Motherhouse and others around town. Her generosity was gift to all in more ways than one.

Therese was a calming presence who left others feeling better, often without even saying a word. She was loved and admired by all who knew her as a simple, humble woman, a true model of Mary Frances Clarke. Thank you, Therese, for all the years of loving care of your sisters. Now we bid you farewell. Rest in peace.

Click here to read wake stories.