What a life!
All members of the Discalced Carmelite order of nuns leave worldly things behind for a life of quiet contemplation. But Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity might have left behind more than most.
Before she became a nun, she was San Francisco socialite Ann Russell Miller. Mrs. Miller was in her 60s and had wealth, connections and 10 children when she decided to enter the cloistered Carmelite monastery in Des Plaines.
She traded a comfortable home for a monastic cell. She was enveloped in silence — her order focuses on prayer and silent attentiveness to God. Discalced means unshod, so she traded fashionable shoes for plain sandals.
When friends and relatives visit, there’s no touching. Her son Mark Miller said her family could only see her through a metal grill.
He tweeted that when she died Saturday at 91, she had 28 grandchildren, “some of whom she has never seen. She has more than a dozen great-grandchildren as well; none of whom she has held.”
“She was kind of an unusual nun,” he said. “She didn’t sing very well. She was frequently late to her required duties around the convent. She threw sticks for the [community] dogs, which was not allowed. Also, she was my mother.”
She grew up Mary Ann Russell, daughter of Donald Russell, chairman of Southern Pacific Railroad. According to a death notice, she attended the exclusive Spence School in New York and Mills College in Oakland before marrying Richard Kendall Miller, an executive with Pacific Gas & Electric.
Her calendar was filled with charity work, opera, cruises, skiing and getting glamorous at the Elizabeth Arden salon, according to newspaper accounts about her life. Mark Miller once told the San Francisco Chronicle his mother’s shoe collection made that of Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, “look pitiful.”
She smoked and drank and socialized with prominent Catholics including actress Loretta Young and Dolores Hope, comedian Bob Hope’s wife.
The Russells’ faith was “the center of their marriage,” according to her death notice…
…After her husband died in 1984, she decided to become a nun, according to her daughter. By then, her youngest child was 22 and in law school.
She had a going-away party at a Hilton hotel with hundreds of friends.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her …