The Rev. Conrad Miller, 91, pastor and teacher

September 12, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. Conrad Miller, a Franciscan pastor and teacher who was known for his jocular and outgoing personality, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 4 at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium. He was 91.

Father Miller was born in Baltimore and raised in Fells Point. After graduating from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, N.Y., he entered the Conventual Franciscan Friars at St. Joseph Cupertino Novitiate in Ellicott City in 1932.

After professing his first vows in 1933, he studied at St. Hyacinth Seminary in Granby, Mass., and in Rome, where he was ordained a priest in 1938.

During his years in Rome, he saw dictator Benito Mussolini deliver numerous speeches.

On a trip to Poland, he met Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Franciscan who was arrested by the Nazis and executed at Auschwitz in 1941. Father Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II.

Father Miller returned to the United States before the outbreak of World War II, serving as an assistant pastor at churches in Auburn, N.Y., Montreal, Buffalo, N.Y., and Chicopee, Mass.

In 1948, he began a teaching ministry that took him to Roman Catholic parishes along the Eastern Seaboard, where he led missions, retreats and devotional programs.

In 1960, he was assigned as a confessor to the Basilica of St. Anthony in Padua, Italy, and from 1963 to 1976 he pastored churches in Montreal and Hollsopple, Pa.

Father Miller moved in 1976 to Ellicott City, where he resumed his teaching ministry. He later moved to the friars' residence at Archbishop Curley High School in Baltimore, where he lived until becoming a resident of Stella Maris in 1999.

"I recall on a trip to New England that Father Miller had a story about the parish nearest each exit of the New Jersey Turnpike and Interstate 95. At every exit, he had a story. It was a real hoot," said the Rev. Donald Grzymski, pastor of St. Clement Mary Hofbauer Roman Catholic Church in Rosedale.

"He always remembered their names and would joke that when he went to a new parish he would first introduce himself to the housekeeper, then to the dog and finally to the pastor," Father Grzymski said.

He added: "He was always a very affable man who never spoke ill of anyone. He always found something good to say about someone."

The Very Rev. Michael Kolodziej, provincial superior of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, described him as being "always up" and a "Baltimorean from crab cakes all the way down."

"I never saw him get mad or upset, and he always took everything in stride," Father Kolodziej said. "If you were in the dumps, after a few minutes with him you immediately felt happier."

Even though he had used a wheelchair since 1999, Father Miller visited residents and assisted the Stella Maris chaplain.

Father Miller enjoyed reading and traveling.

"He also loved Christmas and enjoyed putting up the tree, decorations and candles in the windows," Father Grzymski said.

A Mass of Christian burial was offered Thursday.

Surviving are several nieces and nephews.

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