50 Years: Mary Alice Miller, SP
Sister Anna Catherine
Mary Alice Miller, SP
One celebration after another. That is what Sister Mary Alice Miller and her family have been enjoying for more than a year, with golden wedding anniversaries for her brother George and her sister Barbara, a silver anniversary for her sister Roberta, and her own golden jubilee as a Sister of Providence.
Living in California has allowed Sister Mary Alice to enjoy being close to the family. Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Burbank-Glendale area, she has watched her nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews grow and celebrate their achievements.
Among the favorite memories of family togetherness are the times when the family tent was pitched in the campgrounds of state and national parks in California. These outings instilled in Mary Alice a love of nature, a love which inspires her today to go camping, hiking and traveling with friends.
Entered community with two high school friends
While growing up in a strong Catholic family and attending Incarnation school in Glendale, Calif., she often wondered if she had a vocation.
When she went to Providence High School she met her first Sisters of Providence. “I grew to know them, and I liked the way they interacted with one another,” she recalled. Quietly, the idea of becoming a Sister of Providence became a decision. In her senior year, Mary Alice began to share her decision with others, and learned that two classmates also felt called to be Sisters of Providence.
Her first plane ride took her to Seattle, where she and other young women entered the religious community on August 15, 1961.
Ministry in education fulfilled lifelong dream
Sister Mary Alice’s years at Providence Heights, in Issaquah, Wash., were a time of exploring the call to religious life and a time of creating lasting memories. She was part of the first postulant group to enter there and attended classes that were made up of women from more than one province in the community. She professed her first vows on August 19, 1964, at Providence Heights, and completed the Sister Formation Program there in 1966. Final vows were made in her home parish of Incarnation in Glendale, Calif., in 1969. Her graduate education was at Seattle University and the University of Oregon.
Sister Mary Alice’s ministry in education was the fulfillment of a lifetime wish. “The idea of teaching was always there. I like working with children and watching them grow and learn. My favorite grade to teach was fifth grade because the students are eager to learn and still have a sense of wonder.”
During thirty-three years of teaching, she was at St. Joseph School in Vancouver, Wash., Holy Family School in West Seattle, St. Finbar School in Burbank, Calif., and Assumption School in Seattle.
In August of 1980, Sister Mary Alice was not preparing for another year of teaching. Instead, she was assuming the new role of assistant to the treasurer at the Provincial Offices in downtown Seattle. “That was my first encounter with computers,” she said. For the next six years she assisted members of the religious community with their living arrangements, helping them in their moves, handling their budgets, helping them buy cars and have them repaired, and meeting other needs of the Sisters.
Maintains contact with former students
In 1987 she once again found herself returning to Southern California, this time to St. Robert Bellarmine School, where she taught for the next nineteen years. Her present ministry is at St Robert’s Parish, where she works in the ministry center. This position allows her to do a variety of tasks and provides an opportunity to be active in the parish. “I have met many wonderful people that are a part of the parish family,” she said. “It has been an enjoyable and interesting learning experience.”
She is able to maintain contact with many of her former students as they grow into young adults. This contact continues as they bring their children to be baptized or to prepare for First Communion.
In April of this Jubilee year, a retreat was planned for the women who entered in 1961. This group consisted of women who entered but left as novices or professed sisters, as well as the Jubilarians. This was a time to renew friendships, to share stories, and to learn of the significant events of each other’s lives during the past fifty years.
One of the highlights of Sister Mary Alice’s years in religious life was the opportunity to visit Italy in 1998. “This was an enlightening and interesting experience of a different culture and a different language,” she explained. “I thoroughly enjoyed seeing history come alive as I visited places that I had taught about in the classroom.“ She had the privilege to return to Rome in 2001 for the beatification of Blessed Emilie Gamelin, the foundress of the Sisters of Providence.
As she looks back on fifty years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Mary Alice is thankful for the close relationship she has with her family, for her many friends, and for a Provident God who called her.