Woman whose faith helped her overcome hardships to receive nursing degree at Fairfield University

The degree of obstacles in Ellen Miller's life has been counter-balanced by the depth of her faith - and this weekend the scale tips in favor of faith as those obstacles are overcome. Ellen will be graduating with a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Fairfield University on Sunday, May 19. Her daughter Jennifer graduates from Fordham University on Saturday, and the following week her son Christopher graduates from Immaculate High School in Danbury with a scholarship in hand to follow in his sister's footsteps to Fordham.

Leaving an abusive marriage in Ecuador 13 years ago, Ellen came back to the United States where she had grown up and sought to find a way to raise her two children. She has been working as a home health aid with the Ridgefield Housing Authority's assisted living program for seniors and decided eight years ago to pursue her nursing degree. She says she didn't know where the money would come from each semester; she just knew that somehow God would make it possible. "God takes care of everything," she says. He and the Blessed Mother. "My faith has really sustained me all these years." She credits staying close to the Lord and working hard with getting her this far.

She will be putting her new nursing degree to work with the Visiting Nurse Association in a program connected with Danbury Hospital. As she makes home visits, her effectiveness in working with low-income Portuguese and Spanish populations will be enhanced by her language skills - she originally went to Ecuador to study Spanish - and her own experiences with struggling to make ends meet. She knows she can relate to their situations.

She has enjoyed her work with the elderly and says she has learned a lot of wisdom from her patients. "I have a special place in my heart for older adults. They're survivors."

Among the many angels in her life have been the members of the Ridgefield Thrift Shop who provided her with a nursing scholarship for eight years, and the American Association of University Women in Ridgefield and New Canaan that supported her education. A friend of one of her patients told Ellen about the Philanthropic Educational Organization Sisterhood, which has a chapter in Ridgefield where she lives. The international organization works to support women with their education. Vicky Yoran, who is a member of the Ridgefield group, says she admires Ellen and it has been the group's pleasure to help her. Ellen also received a scholarship from the Fairfield University School of Continuing Education where she enrolled to earn her nursing degree.

And she can't speak highly enough of the people in her parish at St. Mary's who have showered here with "a lot of love and care and believing in me." Father Robert Morrissey helped her confront her past and the domestic violence she endured. "I wouldn't have gotten so far and I'm a better nurse," she said, for having confronted this chapter in her life.

Ellen has some words of wisdom herself, which she has surely passed on to her children: "You get a future when you have an education."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on May 13, 2002

Vol. 34, No. 234a

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