Remembering Father Frederick Miller, Educator, Spiritual Director of Seminarians and EWTN Contributor
‘The Church is greatly indebted to Father Miller, a priest of Jesus Christ,’ said Newark Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz.
Some of the last people Father Frederick Miller spent time with before his death on Sept. 28 were seminarians.
Along with his work as a longtime professor and spiritual director at Immaculate Conception Seminary and St. Andrew’s Hall minor seminary at Seton Hall University, as well as other seminaries and universities, Father Miller wrote several books, led retreats and a Marian organization, as well as appeared often on EWTN.
“His loss will be felt profoundly among the priest community, the seminarians to whom he imparted tremendous spiritual wisdom, and all those whose lives he touched in his 50-year priestly career,” said Joseph Nyre, president of Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, in a tribute after the priest’s unexpected death. “We mourn Father Miller’s passing, yet we are confident his legacy will endure in the many men he strengthened to serve in the priesthood. May the Lord grant him a reward for his labors, and let him rejoice in the liturgy of heaven.”
It's likely that many of the more than 100 priests who processed in at Father Miller’s funeral Mass on Oct. 4, the feast of St. Francis, at Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange, at one time benefited from his teaching, spiritual direction and priestly witness.
“In many ways, he was your father, your spiritual father,” Newark Auxiliary Bishop Manuel Cruz told not only the priests but many seminarians and religious who attended the funeral, which was livestreamed.
“In the witness of his faith, through the thousands of priests that he helped to form through his teaching and writing, his spiritual direction and his holy priestly witness, Father Miller had an invaluable impact on the Church of today,” Bishop Cruz said. “The Church is greatly indebted to Father Miller, a priest of Jesus Christ.”
Father Miller was born in 1946 in Hoboken, New Jersey, and was ordained to the priesthood for the Newark Archdiocese in 1972. He studied at Seton Hall University and later earned an M.A. in dogmatic theology from St. John’s University in New York and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome.
After serving as a parochial vicar at three New Jersey parishes, he was executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima and the National Blue Army Shrine in Washington, New Jersey, from 1987 to 1992; and during that time, in 1988, he arranged for St. Teresa of Calcutta to visit the shrine.
He wrote in the apostolate’s Soul Magazine following the visit that drew an estimated 20,000 people:
“Reflecting upon Mother’s visit, it strikes me that we all must do more to put our faith into practice. We must seek to live simply in imitation of Jesus and Mary, share what we have with the poor, and become more sensitive to the human needs of those around us.”
Many still speak of the event, said David Carollo, current executive director of the World Apostolate of Fatima. “Father Miller had a very Marian heart,” he told the Register. “After leaving the Blue Army, he served in the formation of priests. Father Miller had a devotion to Our Lady that he instilled in his seminarian students. His legacy will reflect this. May he rest in peace.”
Father Miller was a spiritual director and formation adviser to countless seminarians over many decades, according to an obituary in Newark’s Star-Ledger.
Besides his most recent role as an adjunct theology professor, Father Miller also taught other subjects, including Catholic dogmatic and moral teaching; the Eucharist and sacraments in the spiritual life; Mariology and classics of the Western spiritual tradition at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, in Overbrook, Pennsylvania, St. Joseph Seminary Dunwoodie, in Yonkers, New York; Franciscan University of Steubenville, in Ohio; the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Rome; and Mount St. Mary's Seminary, in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where he chaired the systematic theology department.
Along with his academic work, Father Miller was a frequent guest on EWTN. The network, which is the parent company of the Register, was saddened to learn of his death, said Michael Warsaw, chairman of the board and CEO of EWTN Global Catholic Network. “As one of the leading Marian scholars in the country, he appeared with Mother Angelica on her live shows and on numerous other programs, including as a series host. Father Miller was also a close friend and mentor to many of the friars over the years, having been a seminary professor to some of the priests.”
Warsaw recalled, to the Register, working with Father Miller in 2012 to develop the “Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation.”
“Father Miller wrote that novena at the time of the many challenges to religious liberty that arose from the Obamacare HHS contraception mandate,” he said. “A decade later, EWTN continues to use that powerful novena prayer to invoke Our Lady’s intercession for our country and its leaders. In many ways, that novena may be one of Father Miller’s most impactful and powerful legacies. All of us at EWTN pray for the repose of his soul.”
In 1997, Father Miller’s book The Trial of Faith of St. Therese of Lisieux was published by Alba House.
His second book, The Grace of Ars, about St. John Vianney, was published in 2010 by Ignatius Press. Production editor Carolyn Lemon provided context for the book’s publication.
“Father Frederick Miller … had led a number of pilgrimages to Ars [France, where St. John Vianney served as pastor for more than 40 years],” she told the Register. “He asked Ignatius Press to publish his retreat conferences for the Year of the Priest proclaimed for 2009-2010 by Pope Benedict XVI. Since this proclaimed year had already begun, we had to rush to publish the book. Father Miller was a most cooperative and helpful author. He made excellent suggestions for additions to the book, including color illustrations.”
“We add our prayers to yours,” she said. ”May this good priest rest in peace, rewarded for his tireless work and his kindness.”
Father Miller was as comfortable speaking to children as to theologians and philosophers, according to Father Dennis Kaelin, a retired priest in the Newark Archdiocese and a close friend who gave the homily at Father Miller’s funeral Mass. Father Miller’s own personal trials gave him empathy in helping others, whether a young man contemplating suicide or young people at a juvenile detention center who lined up to talk to him when he gave catechism lessons.
“When he talked to people, he was able to make them really want to be in heaven,” Father Kaelin said.
“He was a priest after the heart of Christ,” he said at the Mass of Christian burial. “‘Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like unto thine’: I think to a large degree that was achieved by Fred Miller,” adding, “He lived it.”