Leawood parishioner carries on father’s legacy

Matt Miller introduces Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann at the annual CORE Priests Appreciation Day on Sept. 18. Miller has carried on the legacy of his father, Robert E. Miller, who helped start the first Priests Appreciation Day back in 1992. LEAVEN PHOTO BY DOUG HESSE

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When the late Robert E. Miller was on his deathbed in 2010, he asked his sons Sean and Matt to continue his two philanthropic legacies.

He asked Sean to take over “Homes from the Heart,” which builds homes for the poor in Third World countries.

And he asked Matt to take over CORE — Celebrating Our Religious Enthusiastically. CORE organizes an annual Priests Appreciation Day.

Sean and Matt both agreed, promising their father to carry on the programs.

On Sept. 18, CORE and the Serra clubs of Greater Kansas City hosted the 26th annual Priests Appreciation Day. The day included lunch, a shotgun start four-person golf tournament, a Texas Hold ’em and gin rummy tournaments, cocktail hour and dinner.

This year, the golfing and card playing took place at the Nicklaus Golf Club at Lion’s Gate in Overland Park, and the dinner took place at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood. There were 140 golfers and a baker’s dozen of card players.

Robert Miller, founder of Robert E. Miller Insurance in Overland Park, was a Catholic with a capital “C” boldfaced and underlined.

“It was important to him because he went to Mass daily and [believed] that supporting priests is not only a privilege, but a responsibility,” said Matt Miller, a member of St. Michael the Archangel. “It was giving back — as much as the priests have given us the sacraments and the word, he felt a great need to support them.”

CORE, which is the entity that organizes and sustains the Priests’ Appreciation Day, grew out of conversations between Abbot Gregory Polan, OSB, of Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri, and Miller. It was originally a small golf tournament to support seminarians.

The first was in 1992, and it grew to be much more.

Today, the event includes opportunities for fun and fellowship for priests and seminarians from both the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. In addition to the entertainment and meal, the priests are given the option of receiving a tailored suit or $300 in gift cards donated by Catholic businessmen.

Ironically, Miller did not play golf.

He and a committee organized the first 17. Matt helped his father with the 2009 event and took over its leadership in 2010. Today, he’s training his daughter Laura Forbes to take over leadership — the third generation.

Priests traveled from all over the archdiocese to attend the day. One was Father Daniel Schmitz, pastor of Annunciation in Frankfort, St. Monica-St. Elizabeth in Blue Rapids, and St. Columbkille in Blaine.

Initially, it looked like the day would be a rainout on the course, but the sun came out and everyone had a great day of golf.

Except him.

“I’m a terrible golfer, but it was a great day to be out on the course,” said Father Schmitz. “I didn’t help my team too much. It was the first time I played golf all summer.”

There’s always a shark on the course. This year, it was Msgr. Michael Mullen from St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Don’t let his Irish charm and senior status fool you — he knows how to use those clubs.

“He has a high skill level, that’s for sure,” said Father Schmitz.

Father Schmitz got to know and appreciate the Miller family while he was an associate at St. Michael the Archangel. He, like many other priests, is grateful for their support.

“They’re very generous people,” he said. “They’ve been very good and supportive in so many ways, like so many of our parish families. Bob Miller certainly had a special love for priests and wanted to do what he could for us. We’re grateful that his descendants continue to carry on his legacy.”

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