by Paolo Affatato
Kathmandu (Agenzia Fides) - When a missionary spends more than 60 years of his life in a country far from his homeland, it often happens that he chooses to die there, in his "adopted homeland" and also to be buried in the place where he spent most of his life. Because, recognizing a call from God, for the people he met there, he gave everything of himself, he put all his heart and all his mind into the apostolic service, he spent the best of his energies, always with the mission of announcing and witnessing to Jesus Christ, and not to himself: the American Jesuit father Casper J. Miller, who lived 65 years in Nepal, until his death on January 15 last, at the age of 90, is a true example of this "passion for evangelization, that is to say the apostolic zeal" that Pope Francis put at the center of his latest cycle of catechesis.
Casper J. Miller was born in Cleveland, Ohio (USA), in 1933 and, not yet eighteen, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1951. In 1958, "Cap", as he liked to be called, enthusiastically volunteered to go on a mission to Nepal in what was to become his life's work. Arriving in the small Himalayan nation, he became totally immersed in the local culture, soon learning to speak the Nepali language fluently, and spending long periods in the villages in contact with the local population, even in regions where the proclamation of the Gospel had never reached. At the same time, he continued his studies in cultural anthropology, which also led him to an in-depth knowledge of popular music, thus becoming a specialist in Nepalese culture and traditions.
Ordained a priest on March 29, 1964, the missionary proclaimed the Christian faith to the Tamang tribes of the Dhading district and taught hundreds of Nepalese students, who came to pray over his body and attended his funeral en masse, celebrated on January 16 in the church of the Assumption, in Kathmandu.
He was principal of St. Xavier's School in Jawakhel from 1967 to 1969, then of St. Xavier's School in Godavari from 1969 to 1975. For the following decade, until 1987, he was a researcher and author at the Center for Human Resource Development and Research at Tribhuwan University in Nepal, being one of the first scholars to earn a PhD in Anthropology in Nepal. During his student years, he published three books: "Faith-Healers in the Himalayas", "Decision Making in Village Nepal" (his PhD research) and "To Yourself Be True". In 2017, he still had the strength to write "A life in Nepal History", recounting the mission he shared in Nepal with his American brothers, Fathers Ludwig Francis Stiller (1928-2009) and John Kerr Locke (1933-2009). At the age of 85, he was still counselor and tutor to the students at St. Xavier's College in Maitighar. The students, who loved him very much, remember him as a humble, helpful, simple gentle and kind person, of great human and spiritual depth.
He spent the last years of his life as a librarian and writer for the Jesuit community in Nepal. For his merits and works for the benefit of the nation, he was granted Nepalese citizenship in 1971: he was one of the few foreigners honored by the then King of Nepal for his service to the people. Today, people remember him as a cultural and spiritual reference and the local press, such as the "Kathmandu Post", celebrates his contribution by calling him "a man of light and wisdom".
The confreres describe him as "a man who lived a full life and testified to his love for the mission", and remember him as "a happy man; a man who, rooted in Christ, experienced fraternity and evangelical welcome with people so different from him". He went “over the border” just to "stay beside", where he was called by God, as a sign of hope, and he never "looked back". Always looking to Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and committing every gesture, word and deed to Him. (Agenzia Fides, 20/1/2023)