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June 8, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 16


photo:  Msgr. Thomas Miller
Msgr. Thomas Miller

Msgr. Thomas Miller retiring to Richmond

W hile some may be surprised that Msgr. Thomas Miller plans to live in Richmond when he retires from active priestly ministry this summer, the longtime pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Roanoke feels it is right for him.

“For one reason, I have lived in Richmond for more years than any other place in my 44 years as a priest,” he told The Catholic Virginian.

“It would also be important for me to give the new pastor some space,” Msgr. Miller continued. “And it places me closer to my family in northern Virginia.”

Both Msgr. Miller’s brother and sister live in Alexandria.

five priest plan to retire august 1, 2015Looking back to his earliest days, Thomas Miller, now 70, was born in Winchester and went to public schools there. In September 1961, he entered St. John Vianney Seminary as a junior.

The Diocese of Richmond had opened the high school seminary in 1960 for only freshmen and sophomores. He was part of the first graduating class in 1963.

“I’d always been interested in priesthood and there had been no vehicle to explore the interest until the establishment of St. John Vianney.

His years at the high school seminary were good ones. The late Msgr. Chester Michael was the rector.

“He and his team introduced us to good liturgy even before the Second Vatican Council called the entire Church of greater participation,” Msgr. Miller said.

“I went to Theological College in Washington for theological studies for four years,” he said, adding that his previous studies were at the old St. Charles Seminary in Baltimore.

“My deacon assignment for the summer was at St. Ann’s in Arlington, and also during my last year at TC,” he said.

He knew then that he definitely wanted to be a parish priest.

“What sealed the deal was when I had an opportunity to work in a parish,” Msgr. Miller explained.

“I fell in love with parish ministry and I’ve been doing it ever since. I never had any other kind of assignment than parish ministry.”

He was ordained to the priesthood May 15, 1971 by Bishop John J. Russell. Among the others ordained the same day were Msgr. J. Kenneth Rush, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Lynchburg, and Msgr. Michael Schmied, pastor of St. Augustine’s in Chesterfield County.

The newly ordained Father Miller’s first assignment was at St. Bridget Parish in Richmond. Msgr. Francis J. Byrne was the pastor and Msgr. William Carr, current pastor of St. Bridget’s, was then parochial vicar.

Msgr. Miller stayed at St. Bridget’s for four years.

There was a very brief stopover at St. Jeromes’s in Newport News until February of 1976 when the pastorate of St. Mary’s in Blacksburg became open. When as asked if he had any interest in becoming pastor, Msgr. Miller answered yes, and was pastor of the Blacksburg parish from February 1976 to June 1983.

“That’s when we moved from the small downtown church up the hill to a piece of property which had been given as a future site for a new church,” Msgr. Miller said.

St. Mary’s since that time has moved to a much larger church. The previous church is now used by Blacksburg United Methodist Church as a day care center.

He was appointed rector of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in 1983 and stayed the full 12 years which at the time was normal for priests before being reassigned.

“Then it was back to where it all began at St. Bridget’s,” Msgr. Miller said. “It had been 20 years since I left St. Bridget’s as parochial vicar and then I returned as pastor in 1995.”

After seven years at St. Bridget’s, Msgr. Miller was assigned pastor of St. Andrew’s in 2002. With retirement coming in 2015, his time at St. Andrew’s has been what he calls “my longest stretch.”

“We have about 1,700 households,” Msgr. Miller said. “It is definitely the iconic building in Roanoke.”

The most recent highlight was the rededication of the church spires by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo in November 2014.

Msgr. Miller has enjoyed the 44 years of active priestly ministry.

“Clearly the most satisfying aspect of priesthood is celebrating liturgy and preaching,” he said.

“Then closely connected to that is entering into the joys and sorrows of people’s lives.

“The least satisfying aspects of priestly ministry is administration and finance,” he continued. “I’ve had good business managers in every parish I’ve been.”

What does the future hold, he was asked.

“I hope to be of service to priests in parishes as the need arises,” Msgr. Miller said. “I’m in good health, thanks be to God.

“I would like to investigate the possibility of additional studies and also want to catch up with books and movies and my penchant for travel.”

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