‘Mom’ Miller still influences many people around The Salvation Army world
By: Major Frank Duracher
Major Catherine Miller has too many “children” to number – in addition to the four she birthed. That’s because her front portal has been a revolving door for decades, admitting scores of young people needing a place to stay and a listening ear.
Retired now for over 25 years, “Mom Miller” remains the matriarch of the Wichita, Kansas, Citadel Corps. Her influence continues with dozens of youth active in her corps.
Her motherly love for troubled kids and teens began while she and her beloved husband, Arnold, served as active officers across the Central Territory and, in post-retirement, a corps officer stint in the Arkansas-Oklahoma Division in the South. Several of her kids have gone on to serve as Salvation Army officers themselves, including one of her sons.
One “daughter,” Margaret, became an officer, and Catherine participated in the dedication of their baby not long ago.
Catherine also has a great heart for the mission field, fostering young adults from as far away as France, Switzerland, South Korea and China. “We always supported the missions and volunteered but never were able to go (one child, Joy, was handicapped).”
One has only to look to her mother as Catherine’s Christian example. “My mother raised us 10 children while working as schoolteacher in Nebraska. It was hard for her because dad was away much of the time, working on the road.”
Admittedly, the “revolving door” has slowed dramatically (she has only one living with her today), but that hasn’t slowed Mom Miller in her 90th year. She is very active in her corps and constantly encourages others to be very involved in the Army’s mission and ministry.
She keeps correspondence with her foster kids both here and abroad, sending monthly checks to those living overseas and remembering all birthdays and anniversaries. She even includes a $5 bill to children for birthdays up to adult age. In her basement, extensive photo albums of her foster kids track their whereabouts and important milestones, including babies of their own.
Through decades of taking kids in, Catherine marvels that she and Arnold “always had the support of our divisional commanders.” A running joke has it that whenever the DC’s phone rang, he might have been wondering if the Millers were taking in one more waif.
As for her own children, Catherine exercised great patience and faith. She says now that her greatest answer to prayer spanned 54 years during the life of her handicapped daughter, Joy. Born breached, the baby was deprived of oxygen. “Joy was a miracle because God preserved her brain. She was mentally alert, and loved to laugh spontaneously,” Catherine said.
Another daughter, Dawn, grew up to be a great wife and mother in her own right, but was diagnosed later in life with multiple sclerosis. Dawn was Promoted to Glory a few years after her sister, Joy.
Catherine lost her beloved Arnold some five years ago.
Whether she found intense joy in housing youth – or the times of extreme grief – Catherine falls back heavily on her faith in Christ. From the night of her conversion at a Billy Graham Crusade in Moline, Illinois, to the weekend at youth councils where she felt God’s call to Salvation Army officership, Catherine’s reliance on God only grew stronger.
One Mother’s Day a few years ago, her family and friends pulled off a surprise crowning of Catherine as “Mother of the Year” at the Wichita Citadel Corps. Scores of tributes from around the world were read and videoed, all of them rising up “to call her blesséd” (Proverbs 31:28).
Major Frank Duracher, a former staff writer for The War Cry and the Southern Spirit, is a retired Salvation Army officer living in North Carolina.