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End of Life Ministry: A New Beginning for Retired Carpenter

Posted on December 17, 2023 in: Bereavement Support

End of Life Ministry:  A New Beginning for Retired Carpenter

A house fire while he was a senior in high school determined the path of retired carpenter Glenn Miller’s life work as a Catholic and pointed him in a different direction than he planned. It is a direction that through many twists and turns has brought him to a new venture in his retirement — making boxes to hold the cremains of loved ones for people who cannot afford to purchase one.

This new initiative is part of the Office of Faith Events’ “End of Life Ministry.” The hand-crafted boxes have a raised cross on the cover to remind the recipient of God’s promise of eternal life for all of us. The “End of Life Ministry” provides a cremation box/urn free of charge to family and friends of the deceased who would not have the means to otherwise purchase one. Each box comes with a prayer card that serves as a reminder that our loved ones are sharing eternal rest with God our Father.

Arriving at this new ministry was not something Glenn ever expected as a young man. In fact, God’s plans for Glenn, a cradle Catholic, were vastly different from his own. As a young man who was gifted with musical talent, he planned to join the U.S. Army to play the French horn in the Army’s band. When his family home burned down near the end of his senior year in high school, though, he knew he had to stay and help rebuild it. As he recaps this chapter of his life, he does so with a melancholy undertone. Displaced from their home, his family members spread out and lived in different spaces. He worked as a part-time janitor to make some money while living in his family barn. Fondly, he recalls his grandmother’s strong religious influence — religious books on the coffee table and rosary beads and crucifixes on the walls. God was a very important part of his life, even through the hard times.

Through the trials and tribulations of life, he continued to seek answers from the Lord to his life’s struggles. “So much of my life, then and now, revolves around me actively seeking the Lord for answers and Him providing guidance, intervention and solutions in many different ways,” said Glenn. As a lifelong spiritual explorer, he gives all the credit for his numerous life accomplishments and joys to God. “The Lord has led me to where I am today. I never would have gotten here by myself.”

When you highlight the many gifts and talents he possesses — cabinet maker and musician, to name a few — he immediately gives all the glory and honor to God. For him, music and singing are a way to spread God’s word and bring God’s grace to others. For nearly 10 years, he pursued a professional musical career. After finally realizing that a professional career in music was not the purpose of his gifts and talents, he opted to share those gifts as part of the music ministry at his church. In doing so, he experienced his faith deepening in ways he never knew possible.

Eventually, he turned his love for working with wood into a career as a union cabinet maker for architectural millwork used in many buildings throughout the Northeast. The pride he has in his craft is palpable. “I still love it when I get behind the table saw; it’s just fun!” he said.

Recently retired, the freedom from work obligations has made room for Glenn’s creativity and collaboration on this new “End of Life Ministry,” which he shares with his good friend Peter LaPlaca.  “Once I said yes to be part of this ministry, other pieces of my life fit together, especially with my friend Peter and his shop.” Initially, Glenn’s carpentry abilities post-retirement were limited because he did not have a workshop with a table saw. He had been asked to do some carpentry work for his parish, St. Matthew’s in Tolland, and asked Peter to use his table saw. His friend had some limitations as well: a recent move and health issues had prevented him from setting up his own workshop. Glenn offered to help set up the shop, and Peter reciprocated by offering to help Glenn cut the pieces for the cremation boxes. “I couldn’t have done it without him.” Peter created the template for the boxes, complete with sizes and instructions.

Glenn hopes other woodworkers will be moved to offer their talents to assist with this ministry in the future. “We can’t hide our light under a bushel basket; we need to share our gifts and talents to build God’s kingdom here on earth,” he said. Carpenters and woodworkers are invited to join in the production of the boxes/urns, while others can make donations for materials used to create them. “We do not have unlimited funds so donations to buy materials would really be helpful,” he said.  He believes this ministry is a concrete example of the Church community directly helping people in need on a local level, right here in our diocese.

While he is proud of this new venture God has called him to, Glenn does so with the love and support of his wife Carol-Lynn, their two daughters and sons-in-law and three grandchildren behind him. He calls his family his greatest accomplishment. “I cannot be prouder of anything in my life more than I am of my family.  It is just not possible.”

In addition to the gratitude he has for his family and their continued support and love for him in this new undertaking, Glenn also expressed thanks to Father Ray Introvigne and Judith Hughes, who, through their ministry in the Diocesan Spiritual Renewal Program, helped change his life and relationships with people. He also expressed gratitude to the various parish music directors he has worked with who, over the years, have helped him become a better singer and Catholic.

If you would like more information about how to get involved in the “End of Life Ministry” to help Glenn in creating boxes for cremains, please contact the Office of Faith Events (OFE) at faithevents@norwichdiocese.net or call 860.848.2237, ext. 203. If you need a box/urn for a loved one and do not have the financial means to obtain one, call the OFE or the Diocesan Cemetery Office at 860.887.1019. 

By Andrea Hoisl

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    Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich
    201 Broadway
    Norwich, CT 06360-4328
    Phone: 860-887-9294