On Dec. 7, Saint Mary’s University presented Signum Fidei Awards to two districts of De La Salle Christian Brothers, in coordination with and in honor of Blessed Brother James Miller’s beatification ceremony that day in Guatemala.
Signum Fidei Awards were given to De La Salle Christian Brothers Michael Ferhenbach, FSC, Visitor, Midwest District, and Alberto Mairena Floripe, FSC, Visitor, Central America-Panama District, in recognition of Brother James’ ministry in both the Midwest and Central American provinces.
Brother James Miller, who earned his graduate and undergraduate degrees from Saint Mary’s in 1966 and 1974, was only 37 when he was shot and killed as he was mending a wall outside a school where he worked in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, in 1982. It is suspected that Brother James was killed because he and the other De La Salle Christian Brothers fought to keep their young students from being forced into the military. He is the only Christian Brother from the U.S. to have been beatified.
The Signum Fidei Award was established by the university as a way to honor the life and work of Brother James. It is bestowed on an individual, group, or organization in recognition of extraordinary service to the vulnerable and marginalized members of society. It also recognizes and honors work that promotes human solidarity. Its name, signum fidei (or “sign of faith”), is taken from the great seal of our Lasallian family, the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
The Signum Fidei Award is the university’s most prestigious award and has been presented only two previous times. It was first awarded in September 2014 to the Bishop (now Cardinal) of Huehuetenango (the place of Brother James Miller’s death), Álvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri. The second was to Pope Francis, given at St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City in April 2015.
The award itself is a miniature bronze bust of Brother James atop a piece of limestone that was quarried in Winona. The bust is a replica, prepared by Minnesota artist Alec M. Smith, of the life-sized memorial to Brother James that was installed at the entrance of Residencia Santiago Miller, a student residence hall on the Winona Campus, and was dedicated during the university’s centennial celebration in 2013.
The fact that the same casting of the life-size bust will now have a second permanent home at the center where Brother James gave his life connects and unites Saint Mary’s and Casa Indígena Santiago Miller in a special way.
To learn more about Brother James, go to smumn.edu/brotherjames.