Sister (Ruth) Virginia Miller was the youngest of three girls born to Margaret and Leon Miller in Longview, Wash. She attended public grade school, high school and junior college in Longview. When she was in the seventh grade her older sister entered the Sisters of Providence. Throughout high school Ruth would often visit her at her missions in Moxee and Yakima, Wash. She was always impressed to see how the sisters lived and how happy they were. So it was no wonder she herself entered the community on July 17, 1948.
Just before final vows, Sister Virginia was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to Sacred Heart Hospital in Montreal. She made final vows there, which was very difficult because she had no family or friends celebrating with her. The sisters at the hospital were very good to her, realizing how hard this must have been, and Sister Virginia will never forget their kindness.
Sister Virginia’s ministry initially focused on elementary education, including St. Patrick’s School, Walla Walla, Wash.; Holy Rosary School, Moxee; St. Joseph Grade School and St. Joseph Academy, Yakima; and Providence Academy, Vancouver, Wash.
When Providence Academy closed, Sister Cecilia Abhold, provincial superior, asked Sister Virginia to remain in Vancouver as a presence for the girls who would be moving into the public school system. As they say, one door closed but another door opened for Sister Virginia.
In 1967, Sister Elizabeth Joyce joined her and they began the Vancouver Apostolate, an outreach program to five parishes in the Vancouver area, training lay volunteers in a variety of ministries. They expanded this ministry to Snohomish, Monroe and Poulsbo. In 1978, they were asked to become the first Rural Ministry Team in the Archdiocese of Seattle, offering training to volunteers in many of the rural parishes in the Archdiocese. For eight years they served in 12 parishes and 10 mission churches.
In 1995, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen appointed Sister Virginia as pastoral life director of Holy Family, Frances and St. Joseph Pe Ell parishes, as well as a team member for St. Mary Parish, Seaview, Wash.; and St. Lawrence Parish, Raymond, Wash.
The next 11 years were the most rewarding for her. Each weekend she presided at one of the four parishes she served. This was a time of great spiritual growth, she says, because she had to practice what she preached.
Reflecting on her 70 years as a Sister of Providence, Sister Virginia expresses nothing but gratitude. “My religious community, the wonderful people I have met and worked with, the education I have received, the beautiful part of the world that I live in… I can only say, Providence of God, I thank You for ALL.”