Reverend Loran Miller
By Dawn Schwartz
When I think of the times I visited my brother, a semi-retired Capuchin Franciscan monk who resided at the San Damiano Friary (from 2003 to 2014), I fondly picture slowly driving down the long, narrow driveway to this unique property and house, and the calmness that came over me.
My brother, Rev. Loran Miller, was tasked with the repair of the old house, with very minimal funds to do that. It must have been quite a daunting task, considering that all the monks living there were well into their 70s.
When I recently asked my three sisters what their memories of San Damiano were, they replied “the garage sales!” At least once a year, a rummage sale was set up in the detached garage with items donated by friends and family. If the items could be useful for the missionary work in Nicaragua where Father Loran and some of the other monks were commissioned (during the mid-1960s to mid-1970s), we would help pack and seal barrel containers that would be shipped. If the items could not be shipped, we held a garage sale, and the proceeds would be used for the shipping costs, or the money was sent to help the missionary work there.
But our fondest memory centered around a casket. You see, Loran was a tinkerer. When he wasn’t fixing something in the large house or on the property there, he was down in the basement where he would be painting clay religious figures, or making candles from leftover parish beeswax, or creating something with wood. Loran was diagnosed with cancer while at San Damiano, and knowing his life had an earlier end than he expected, he built a beautiful wooden casket in that basement (as well as one for his beloved mother). His casket was made of rich mahogany and other fine wood he had lying about. It was stunning! When he first showed it to me, I said, “You made your own casket?!” He smiled that mischievous smile we all remember and said, “Yeah, and when I lay down in it, I fit quite nicely.”