For years, Erie Benedictine Sister Mary E. Miller has been the face of care and hope for the poor and hungry of Erie, Pennsylvania, demonstrated through her work with Emmaus Ministries.
Sister Mary professed her first vows in 1964 as a Sister of St. Joseph of Northwest Pennsylvania. During her time with the Sisters of St. Joseph, she ministered primarily in education, which included teaching and holding administrative positions in schools in the Diocese of Erie.
In 1967, she received a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Villa Maria College. Following the completion of her undergraduate degree, she attended Boston College for graduate school where she received a Masters degree in religious education in 1974.
Continuing in education, Sr. Mary served as religious coordinator at St. John the Baptist Parish in Erie until 1979. She began her vocation in social services at the Community House for Women and Emmaus Ministries, where she assumed the position of director in 1980. While working full time as director, Sister Mary also began a transfer to the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, a process that was formally completed in 1987.
Currently, Sr. Mary serves as director of Emmaus Ministries, a position she has held for 36 years. When she became director in 1980, Emmaus only operated as a soup kitchen. Under her leadership, it has expanded to a multi-service organization through the introduction of the Emmaus Food Pantry in 1983, Sister Gus’ Kids Café in 2000, and Emmaus Grove: The Erie Urban Farm School in 2013.
Drawn by her charisma and passion for the Gospel, thousands of people in the Erie community have embraced Emmaus. Presently, the group is served by over 300 local volunteers and is the largest on-site food provider in the state of Pennsylvania. Annually, the Emmaus Soup Kitchen serves 45,000 meals, the Food Pantry distributes over 15,000 bags of groceries, the Kids Café serves 7,000 meals to inner-city children, and Emmaus Grove harvests roughly 2,000 pounds of produce to help feed soup kitchen guests.
Sr. Mary’s commitment to the community can also be seen through her contributions to Erie’s Inner City Neighborhood Art House and East 22nd Street Poetry Park, which have become safe havens for impoverished hearts in the inner-city to find beauty.
Sr. Mary is one of the founders behind the Trinity Square Foundation, a non-profit organization that is rehabilitating a neighborhood on Erie’s eastside, the same neighborhood where Sr. Mary resides. In addition to managing the rehabilitation of five homes, she has helped provide a neighborhood garden and a community center for children.
For her selfless contributions within the Erie community, Sr. Mary has received numerous awards and commendations, including but not limited to the 1993 Erie Times-News Achiever of the Year, 1999 Erie County Community Service Award, 1999 Gannon University Distinguished Pennsylvanian, and 2012 Erie Times-News 5 People Who Made a Difference, 2012 Erie Times-News Her Times Extraordinary Woman.
Sister Mary resides in Erie and enjoys gardening and golfing.