Each time Father Michael Miller processes into the sanctuary of St. Patrick in Cedar Lake at first of Mass, he pauses to faucet his ring on the bottom the place the tabernacle sits.
That straightforward gesture is full of that means.
Primarily, it’s a tribute to his father, Carlton Miller, who died Feb. 6, 2020. The ring Carlton had worn since he obtained it in 1980 for a milestone achievement at work was handed right down to his son, who proudly wears it on his left hand to honor a household and religion legacy that led to his priesthood ordination in 1996.
The ring faucet ritual can be an acknowledgment of Father Miller’s homecoming in 2015, when he requested and was granted the task of being pastor of this parish and of neighboring St. Catherine in Spring Lake. The farm the place Father Miller grew up, and which he bought in 2014, is simply 10 miles south of St. Patrick — or, he mentioned, “9 miles because the crow flies.”
The stone tabernacle base is the ultimate piece of a church renovation challenge that was accomplished in 2006. Parishioners did all of the work. Dan Cervenka, who grew up and nonetheless lives on his household farm solely a couple of mile from the church, did a lot of the inside masonry work. A yr in the past, he crafted the tabernacle base. On the aspect of the bottom is a plaque bearing Carlton Miller’s identify. Father Miller used memorial donations from his father’s funeral to pay for the supplies used within the tabernacle base.
Up till the day of Carlton’s funeral, Father Miller had no intention of receiving his father’s ring. Years earlier, an older priest had suggested him by no means to put on a hoop — they had been principally reserved for bishops. However, Father Miller modified his thoughts not lengthy earlier than his father’s casket closed, and took possession of this prized heirloom.
“It was my mom’s concept, really,” mentioned Father Miller, 55. “This was the ring given him again in 1980 when he began promoting Pioneer seed. It suits me good.”
The colour was proper, too. Inexperienced represents Father Miller’s birthstone coloration (his birthday is Could 19); the colour of John Deere tractors, which his household has used for many years in farming; and, after all, the colour related along with his parish’s Irish namesake.
Sacred area of house
The match and coloration of the ring are symbolic of the way in which his vocation and life have come full circle.
“I name it not solely dwelling the dream, however I’m dwelling within the Resurrection now,” he mentioned of being a pastor close to the place he grew up. After being away from a neighborhood he thought he would by no means go away, he now can discuss “the enjoyment of being house.”
“To be the shepherd right here has been simply the best,” mentioned Father Miller, who as a baby attended St. Wenceslaus in New Prague and St. Wenceslaus College, which, at 6 miles from the household farm, had been barely nearer than St. Patrick.
“These are two of the smallest parishes within the diocese (St. Patrick has 195 households, St. Catherine has 64). Some would possibly assume, ‘Properly, you’re type of being punished or one thing.’ However, it’s simply the alternative. … I had mentioned so many occasions that my dream was to retire on the farm and deal with a few parishes close by.”
Father Miller is just not the one one who thinks he’s the correct selection to guide these two parishes. Cervenka, who was only a yr forward of him at New Prague Excessive College, mentioned he was “ecstatic” when phrase unfold in 2015 that Father Miller had been named the brand new pastor. Inside just a few years, that may imply a continuation of Cervenka’s ardour for serving to create lovely and significant worship area.
At a earlier parish, Father Miller had orchestrated shifting the tabernacle from one aspect of the sanctuary to behind the altar. He needed to do the identical factor at St. Patrick, with the concept the tabernacle would relaxation on the toes of a statue of the Irish saint.
Having executed many of the inside masonry within the 2006 renovation, Cervenka was the logical individual for the job, with the essential job of discovering matching stone for the tabernacle base. He “made just a few calls” and got here up with one thing that Father Miller mentioned can’t be distinguished from the stone Cervenka used within the wall behind the tabernacle base in 2006.
Cervenka then set to work for 3 weeks in February 2020, crafting the brand new tabernacle base. On this approach, he carried out his circle of relatives legacy, which started when his father, Dan Cervenka Sr., taught him the commerce proper after he graduated highschool in 1982.
“After highschool obtained out, my dad says, ‘What are you going to do?’” Cervenka recalled. “And, I mentioned, ‘I don’t know.’ And, he goes, ‘Get within the truck. We’ve obtained work to do.’”
Practically 4 many years later, he’s nonetheless at it. He obtained married in 1988. His spouse, Debra, graduated in the identical class as Father Miller. Just a few years into the wedding, he rediscovered his Catholic religion, which he had deserted in highschool in favor of a celebration way of life.
All it took was a choice at some point to change radio stations throughout a interval of religious restlessness and questioning within the Nineties. After listening to rock and roll for years, he turned the dial and landed on a Christian radio station. He observed the distinction instantly.
“The songs had been reward and worship songs,” he mentioned. “I beginning listening, and I believed, ‘That is it. That is what I used to be lacking — not the station, but it surely was God, it was the Lord Jesus. That’s what I’ve been lacking, that’s what I’ve been overlooking. That is the aim of my existence.’ I imply, all of it simply made sense (on) that at some point.”
Sacred area of worship
It was the start of what he calls “a brand new way of life.” His rekindled religion has pushed him ever since, and crammed him with ardour for turning uncooked stone into lovely dwelling areas for folks’s properties and exquisite worship areas for God’s house. His identify is engraved on the tabernacle base beneath Carlton Miller’s. And, his handiwork is unfold all through the within of the church, made attainable by studying a commerce he initially discovered distasteful.
“In my junior excessive years through the summer season months once we had been out of faculty, from time to time Dad would get me to return to a job web site and assist out,” he mentioned. “I might go and do it, and I might come house on the finish of the day and I’d inform my mother, …. ‘I hate it. I’m by no means going to try this for a dwelling. I’m by no means going to do what Dad does.’
And he by no means did prefer it, he mentioned, however when he obtained out of highschool, he knew he needed to do one thing. “What I inform folks is: I cherished my dad greater than I hated cement work. And, I mainly simply needed to be wherever he was.”
As he adopted that straightforward need, he noticed his life’s vocation take form, constructed on a basis as stable as these he makes with concrete and stone. Guided, he believes, by divine windfall.
“God opened my eyes to the worth of arduous work and to the dignity of a commerce and doing one thing nicely, even when it’s messy and soiled, within the warmth of the day and (with) the bugs and the gnats and the mud and the snow and no matter else comes together with it,” he mentioned. “You realize, you do your greatest, and we’re all created equal.”
This strategy to work life and the religious life is one that’s identified — and shared — by his pastor, who speaks the language of those that use their palms to work with the grime and all that comes from it, together with crops and even stone from native quarries that was used to construct St. Patrick church in 1874.
Father Miller is aware of intimately what the agricultural way of life is like, having grown up doing farm chores on his household’s 230-acre dairy farm. Throughout childhood, he envisioned being a farmer all his life. It took some regular pitchforks of religion over many rising seasons to prod him towards the priesthood. “I grew up protected and sound right here,” he mentioned. “I used to be going to farm.”
After graduating from highschool, he went to the College of Minnesota and obtained a two-year diploma, then got here house and farmed along with his father for 3 years. That’s when he “began to really feel this name to be a priest.”
He answered, going to The St. Paul Seminary for his priestly formation after graduating from the College of St. Thomas. After ordination, he served at parishes throughout the archdiocese, together with St. Joseph (now St. Maximilian Kolbe) in Delano and St. Michael in Stillwater. After six years on the latter, he determined it was time for a change.
In early 2015, he purchased the remaining 114 acres of the household farm, the place a neighbor now crops crops. Simply months after that, he discovered that there was a gap for a pastor at St. Patrick and St. Catherine. He made a request to go there, which was granted by Archbishop Bernard Hebda.
Going again house to his roots “was precisely the place I wanted to go,” he mentioned. “It was my time.”
He’s blissful to return house each day to his household farm, which, he mentioned, locals nonetheless name the “Miller farm.” He combines Benedictine and Dominican spirituality, which entails work, prayer, contemplation and passing alongside what he learns and hears God saying whereas inhabiting this serene panorama.
And, with spring planting getting underway, he’s certain to supply many prayers for rain.
Class: Local News