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Mercyhurst honors Sr. Mary Miller with Romero Award

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mary Miller, OSB, director of Erie’s Emmaus Ministries since 1980, will receive the 2016 Archbishop Oscar Romero Award during ceremonies at Mercyhurst University on April 8.

“Sister Mary Miller beautifully exemplifies Archbishop Romero’s particular concern for the poor and marginalized of society,” noted Verna Ehret, associate professor of religious studies. The Religious Studies Department has been presenting the award since 1991 to individuals or organizations "living the call of faith and justice in an extraordinary manner."

Sister Mary Miller will also deliver the annual Romero Lecture, focusing on her community work in pursuit of social justice. The public is invited to attend the ceremony and the lecture, titled “Icons at Emmaus,” on Friday, April 8, at 7 p.m. in the Mercy Heritage Room.

For 35 years Erie Benedictine Sister Mary Miller has been the face of care and hope for the poor and hungry of Erie. When she became director in 1980, Emmaus only operated as a soup kitchen. Under her leadership, it has expanded by opening Emmaus Food Pantry (1983), Sister Gus’ Kids Café (2000) and Emmaus Grove: The Erie Urban Farm School (2013). Drawn by her charism and Gospel passion, thousands of people in the Erie community have embraced and become involved in Emmaus: grade school children, young adults, civic and church organizations, clubs and agencies. Emmaus is now served by more than 300 local volunteers and is the largest on-site food provider in the state of Pennsylvania.

Well known throughout the area for her advocacy work for the poor, Sister Mary is frequently called upon by the media and by other organizations to address issues of hunger and poverty.

Of her role, Sister Mary Miller says, “I don’t think food kitchens should exist in the country. I don’t think they should have to. They need to rearrange the economic system so that the ‘have-nots’ have something and the ‘haves’ have a little less. Working with the poor goes hand in hand with doing something about social injustice in the world. Soup kitchens are Band-Aids … they’re not the answer to the problem. You have to get at the root, the cause of the problem. As a sister I feel I have to stand with the poor—not just feed them, but speak up for them.”

Mercyhurst’s Romero Award takes its name from the late archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, who is remembered for his uncompromising commitment to the poor and oppressed of El Salvador. He died from an assassin's bullet on March 24, 1980, while celebrating Mass in San Salvador, and has been declared a martyr for the Catholic faith.

The first Romero Award, in 1991, honored peace activist Fr. Daniel Berrigan. Since then the award has been presented to a wide range of leaders in the peace and justice movement, both in the Erie community and on the national/international stage. Previous recipients have included Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking; Sister Marilyn Lacey, RSM, founder of Mercy Beyond Borders; Jesuit peace activist John Dear; Erie’s L’Arche Community; and Sister Mary Claire Kennedy, SSJ, an outspoken crusader against human trafficking, who was the 2015 honoree.

For more information, contact Robert von Thaden, Jr., Ph.D., chair and associate professor of religious studies, at 824-2184.