Stevens Point, WI – A powerful pilgrimage touched the hearts of Lasallian Volunteers (LVs) and others as they more deeply connected with the story of Brother James Miller, FSC, a Wisconsin-born De La Salle Christian Brother who was martyred February 13, 1982, while serving in Huehuetenango, Guatemala. In November 2018, Pope Francis approved a decree recognizing that Brother James died as a martyr. Brother James will be beatified on December 7, 2019, in Huehuetenango.
Ahead of the beatification, the pilgrimage was an opportunity to celebrate the life of Brother James, taking more than 90 LVs, Brothers, former Brothers, Lasallian students and educators, family and friends of Brother James, local community members and others through Wisconsin locations significant to Brother James’ life.
Organized by Brother Michael Kadow, FSC, Auxiliary Visitor of the Midwest District, and Brother Ed Phelan, FSC, director of Senior Brothers for the District of Eastern North America and a longtime supporter of the LV program, LVs took part in the multi-day pilgrimage. It included a one-day pilgrimage open to all on May 29, 2019, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin, where Brother James was a student to Ellis, Wisconsin, where Brother James is buried. The pilgrimage included stops at Pacelli High School, Brother James’ alma mater, Sacred Heart Church in Polonia, WI and the farm where he grew up in Ellis, WI.
Brother Ed was excited by the involvement of the Lasallian Volunteers. “It’s amazing that the young LVs were attracted to this and wanted to celebrate it,” he said. “They are glad they did. They journaled faithfully, and they participated in the reflections.”
The Lasallian Volunteers who participated were: Chris Lackey, serving at LaSalle School in Albany, Jumari Callaway, serving at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, Amy Siebenmorgen, serving at San Miguel School in Chicago, Rachel Aubart, serving at De Marillac Academy in San Francisco, Jake Remsing, serving at La Salle Academy in Philadelphia, and Maddi Larsen, serving at The San Miguel School in Providence.
Each day, the group shared prayer and fellowship and spent time learning about Brother James’ life. Lackey and DENA Brother, Paul Joslin, FSC, who served with Brother James in Guatemala, spoke at an assembly for students of Pacelli High School. Brother Paul said of this experience, “As Brother James’ beatification quickly approaches, it is important to remember that he represents what happened to over 200,000 voiceless, innocent people. The pilgrimage has been a powerful, appropriate, surreal pre-beatification experience. This is something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime.”
Lackey spoke about his experience of being a Saint Mary’s University graduate and a Wisconsin native, both traits he shares with Brother James. “On this journey, through Brother James’ example, I have been taught how important it is to follow the call in your heart,” said Lackey. “The small town farmer from Wisconsin has inspired and influenced so many because he nurtured the seed planted in him when he was 15. He is an example of how that nurturing can lead to beauty. I have a new and renewed call to intentional accompaniment with the students I encounter. I believe a seed has been planted in me, and I feel a duty to spread the fruits of Brother James’ life to plant new seeds in his name.”