The Founder of the Congregation of the Sisters of Calvary – Fr Urban Murphy Prior to Bechuanaland
His Family Background
Bishop Urban Charles Murphy was born on 12th July 1919. He was baptised as Charles Joseph Murphy in the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Dolours, Dolphin’s Barn, Dublin 8, Ireland. He was born of devout Catholic Parents who also had great respect and loyalty to Irish culture. In fact all the children with exception of Joseph the youngest had Gaelic name was Cormac.
It was only when he entered the Passionist Congregation that he received the English name Urban, an act that some people considered as a betrayal. Urban grew up under the strong influence of the Catholic and Irish culture.
It is not surprising that when he came to Bechuanaland he transferred his love for the nation to the people of his new mission.
His parents were jawless Murphy and Annie Funge. Because his father was called Charles the new baby was called Cormac within the family. Cormacis an Irish translation of Charles. His father Charles Murphy was born in Dublin in 1880 and his mother Annie Funge born in Courtown, Corey, Co. Wexford. They were married in Courtown on the 3rd 1918 the feast of St Therese of Leisiux. Charles was from a family of seven brothers and no sisters.
He was the only brother to marry. One of his brothers Joseph entered the Passionist Congregation and was known as Fr Andrew C.P (1886 – 1931). Annie was from a family of nine- Patrick, Maggie, Delia, Joseph, Seamus, Isaac, Michael and Frank.
Charles and Anne had six children and Bishop Urban Murphy was the eldest. His brother Sean was born on the 12th June 1921, Brigit was born next on 18th June 1922, she was followed by two more girls Marie 23rd September 1925 and Eithne 25th February 1927. Marie became a sister in the Cross and Passion Sisters . Eithne died in 1947 at the age of 20. The youngest in the family was Joseph born on 4th February 1930. He was eleven years younger than Bishop Urban Murphy. The family was made up of three boys and three girls. The youngest still lives in the family house in Dublin.
The family of a middle class living all their lives in the house at 313 South Circular Road, Dublin 8, a short distance away from Dolphins Barn Church. Bishop Murphy always returned to this house whenever he was on holiday in Ireland from Botswana.
The Bishop’s father Charles Murphy worked in a solicitor’s office before the East uprising in 1916. This was the Irish armed rebellion against British Rule in Ireland. Charles was active in the Uprising and fought in Boland’s Mills beside Eamon de Valera; later Prime Minister President of independent Ireland Charles had spent some time in prison with other volunteers after the Rising. On release he worked with Arthur Griffith on his newspaper. After the vote on the Treaty with the British he split with Arthur Giffith and worked on the Blue line Buses, later when ‘the Sweepstake’ was founded he worked in the hospital’s Trust. The Sweepstake was a lottery run to make money to finance the hospital in Ireland. He died in 1958 at the age of 78.
Bishop’s mother Anne loved to walk to Mount Argus Church about a mile and half from the house. Sunday Mass was attended in the parish Church at Dolphins Barn but for everything else the journey was made Mt Argus. They walked as a family to get blessings with the relic of St. Paul of the Cross. Devotional prayers were attended on Wednesdays and Fridays evening. On Christmas mornings they walked to Mount Argus for the 6:00 am Mass. The Sunday May processions were walked faithfully year out year. Sean and Joe were altar boys at Mount Argus. Another link with Mount Argus was the fact that Bishop Murphy’s paternal uncle (Father’s brother) Andrew was a Passionist – Fr Andrew C.P died in 1931 at the age of 45.
Urban’s School Days
Urban’s first school was a Private Infant School which was on the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and the South Circular Road. Here he made his first Holy Communion on 7th May 1927. After that he transferred to the Christian Brothers at Synge Street, off the South Circular Road where he spent the next eight years completing his primary and beginning his Secondary Education. Here he made his Confirmation in 1929 at the age of 10. One could say that the Catholic faith he received from home was further nourished by the intense Catholic atmosphere at the Irish Christian Brothers’ school.
His school days were happy ones Half way through his Secondary Education he transferred to the Passionist Alumniate at St Patrick’s Wheatfield , Belfast Northern Ireland. This was the school run by the Passionists where those desiring to enter the order could complete their Secondary studies in a religious and spiritual atmosphere. The school was opened in 1922 and transferred to Tobar Mhuire, Crossbar, Co Down in 1950. Charles arrived in Wheatfield in 1953. He was one of the eight students who later became Passionists – Fr Paul Mary Made C.P. and Fr Anselm Keleghan C.P.
Two others became priests, one in St Joseph’s province of the Passionists and one for the Diocese of the Passionists and the other for the Diocese of San Antonio in the U.S.A. The remaining four left the juniorate after a year or two. Charles completed his studies and matriculated in summer of 1938. In the autumn of 1938 he entered the Passionists novitiate at St. Gabriel’s retreat, The Gran, Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.
Urban’s Passionist Life
His strong Catholic background and the Catholic teaching he received from the Christian brothers’ school served as a perfect foundation for the seeding and fostering of a religious and priestly vocation. Some members of his family, for example his uncle Fr Andrew C.P who had entered religious life before him also served as a source of inspiration.
After completing his studies, Charles entered the Passionist novitiate in autumn of 1938. In the novitiate Charles arrived to find two classes already started and waiting for their first profession. These were to be Fr Damien Wilson, Norbert Morris and Celestine Buttlerly who professed on the 18th December 1938. And on the 18th of September 1939 another class professed. This September class consisted of the Passionist priests: Fr Fedelis Porter, Fr Paul Mary Madden and Fr James Mclovor.
With Cormac were Tim Coughlan who left the novitiate and Robert Power later known as Fr Catharine Power. Urban and Carthage were professed on the same day 19th November 1938. These two later were among the pioneer Passionist missionaries to Bechuanaland. Fr Carthage worked in Ramotswa, Christ the King Cathedral and Lastly Tlokweng where his remains are buried in the Mission in Tlokweng.
At this stage the Second World War had begun and all his school days studying Philosophy and theology were spent in the Passionist House of St Paul of the Cross, Mount Argus, Dublin. There was a large number of students in Mount Argus, Confrater Murphy was ordained a priest on 26th May 1845 by Archbishop John Charles McQuaid D.D, Archbishop of Dublin in the chapel of Holy Cross College. Clonliffe, Dublin. He celebrated his first mass on the 27th May 1945.
In his first year of ordination Fr Urban studied for his Faculties Examination and had to write his sermons in the Graan, Enniskillen. At the Provincial Chapter of 1947 Fr Bonaventure Davey C.P, who was a chaplain to the Boys Club in Mount Argus, was made a rector of the Holy Cross Retreat Ardoyne. Fr Urban recalled to Mount Argus, was appointed to be the chaplain of the Boys Club and also assigned to preach Missions and Retreats in parishes.
He gave his first mission in February 1948 in the Passionist Parish of the Holy Cross, Ardoyne, Belfast. He continued in these two roles, preaching and chaplain to the club until the autumn of 1949. At this time he was transferred to Fatima House, Coodham, Scotland, a retreat house run by the Passionists. He arrived there in December 1949.
Fatima House had been brought by the Passionists of St. Patrick’s Province as a retreat house for the laity in mid-1949. It was considered a daughter house of St. Michael’s Retreat, Dalkeith, situated about a mile away. Here Passionists professed students who studied Philosophy taught by other Passionists. In September 1949 Dr Declan O’Sullivan C.P took up residence. Fr Murphy joined him in December of that year.
The two of them are organizing the retreat house. It catered for about 2,000 laity per year giving retreat to Parish Groups ad Catholic Organizations. In the middle of 1950 Fr Declan was transferred and Fr Raymond Kearns C.P took his place. He and Fr Urban continued the work. In the middle of 1951 more priests were assigned to the house- Fr End Elliott C.P and Fr Martin Claffey C.P thus making a community of four priests. In August of the same year Fr Urban was appointed to go in the pioneering to Bechuanaland. He wrote to his parents telling the news on the 30th August 1951.
Dear Daddy and Mummy
Yesterday I received notification from Fr Provincial stating that I have been selected as one of the first and pioneers of our new Foreign Mission Bechuanaland, Africa. Fr Theodore is the Superior. Fr Norbert has also got word to be ready. There are a couple of others, but I don’t know who they are yet. I will be giving a Mission over here from 16th to 30th September and after I have to get ready. However, immediately after this Mission I have to take this year’s holiday. As all reservations are booked up for the remainder of the year, it will be January at the earliest before we can sail.
Now all this will come as a shock to you, as is only natural. But please look in it as God’s Holy Will. It will help me a lot to know that you are taking in the best spirit. After all, it looks as if God does want me to do a little more for the pagans in Africa. He preached his last Mission St. Margaret’s parish, Ardrie, Scotland. Records indicate that it lasted until 7th November 1951.After his holiday and making preparations he left Fatima House. All in all he had preached 33 Missions all over Ireland and Scotland.
Fr Urban’s missionary call seems to have been providentially accidental because at that time the Passionist priest of St Patrick’s Province had no overseas missions. Bechuanaland (Botswana) at that time was under GermanOblates of Mary Immaculate, the Dominican and the Franciscan Sisters. Because of the Hitler regime, it was becoming practically impossible for these missionaries to continue staffing the missions because of declining vocations; besides, it was also becoming difficult for the German missionaries to enter South Africa. It was this time that the Passionists of St. Patrick’s Province responded to the appeal for a congregation to take over the territory.
There were two requests that came to the Passionists congregation at the same time, one for Bechuanaland and the other for Sweden. The decision was made basing on the experience of the provinces, thus St. Patrick’s province who were already working in Tanzania, Africa were given Bechuanaland with the assumption that they are used to the conditions in Africa Rightly so because the report given by the priest who was sent to assess Bechuanaland was that the conditions were no different from those in Tanzania. Sweden was given to the province of St. Joseph because already the province had priests working in Scotland therefore were already used to working in the Protestant environment.
As a young priest, therefore, Urban never thought of becoming a missionary because at the time the Passionists of St. Patrick’s Province had no overseas missions. His apostolic vocation was to preach missions and retreats and other incidental pastoral activities in his home country. He came to the missions because he was sent by his superior. He did not reset being sent and was quite excited and happy over being chosen and the prospect of the challenge. His suitability as a missionary was doubted by his confreres because of being a vigorous and outgoing personality and used to community life. They thought he would never survive the isolation and loneliness entailed. The provincial who sent him to Bechuanaland was his former novice master and knew him better than most of his confreres. His commitment and adaptability in Botswana was to prove the contrary.
Fr Urban Murphy’s Early Days in Bechuanaland
On 17th January 1952 Fr Murphy with Fr Carthage Power C.P Fr Norbert Morriss and four Cross and Passionists Sisters (Sisters Columbia, Clare, Rosina and Damien C.P) under the leadership of Fr Theodore Matthews C.P left for Bechuanaland the unknown world from Southampton they set off on the steamer. “The Cape Town Castle” and on the morning of January 31st they arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, where they got a wonderful welcome to Africa from Cardinal McCann, Bishop Boyle of Port Elizabeth, the secretary to HIs Excellency the Apostolic Delegate, and Fr Flyn – Sr Damien’s brother. They spent a few days in Cape Town with Bishop Boyle who showed them pleasure.
On the morning of Tuesday 5th February the team set out on a 10 000 miles train journey up country and arrived in Kimberley on Wednesday 6th at 8:00pm. Here they were welcomed by OMI Provincial, a few priests, Irish Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Nazareth. At their next important stop Mafikeng there was another contingent of OMI and the Mercy Sisters to greet them. The final stop was Kgale on February 6th at 3:00pm. As the team walked up the avenue, a green white and gold flag floated over the priests house and “Cread MileFaite” – stood out in big warm letters the doorway.” His Grace Archbishop Meysing who had come from Kimberly some days previously for the occasion was waiting with few German Oblates and 7 Oakford Dominican Sisters to greet the new team.
The school children who had lined up cheered and sang Setswana and English songs. Then everybody proceeded to the chapel for benediction. The Drum was sung and an inspiring address of welcome was made by the Archbishop.
The Passionists could not overlook the outstanding missionary work done by the German missionaries, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Dominican and Franciscan Sisters in the territory since 1928. They had laid the foundation for their successors especially in Kgale, Ramotswa and Lobatse and the surrounding.
Before his departure Archbishop Meysing made the suggestion that Fathers Urban and Carthage should go to Mafikeng to take lessons in Setswana from Father Forfar O.M.I. taking this advice they left for Mafikeng on Monday, 11th February. The intensive course was to last six weeks. After three weeks they had completed a grammar course, learned most of the prayers in Setswana by heart and Fr Friar had them hearing confessions in Africans. Fr Urban’s comment was now they had to increase their vocabulary. For this they turned to the children in the school. The children had been told that they were beginners and Fr. Urban was amazed at how helpful the children were. Half way through, they had only preached with an interpreter, but after five weeks Fr Forgar expected them to preach in Setswana. It was a crash course which gave both of them some basics in the language. Fr Carthage and Fr Urban returned to Kgale before Easter 1952.
Coming back after the crash course in Setswana, Fr urban was appointed to Francistown all on his own, away from his confreres a distance of about 300miles. He was to be the first resident parish priest in Francistown and in fact the entire northern part of the country Previously, the area was served by visiting Marrianhill priests from the Diocese of Bulawayo in the then Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). Francistown had a small population of about 160 Catholics (17 Europeans and 42 Coloured and 101 Africans). There was a small dilapidated mud house which was used as a chapel for the Africans.
The town was named after the British prospector and Miner Daniel Francis, who went to Tati in 1860. Francistown was not a tribal village but a town founded by Europeans. It was the principal town of the Tati Concession, a land mass of over 2000 square miles. This concession owed its origin to the discovery of gold in the area by Europeans in the mid-nineteenth century.
After celebrating Easter in Kgale, Fr Urban left for Francistown. The following morning at about 5:45am he stood on the station platform at the journey’s end and knew no one and no one knew him. He was “alone on the ocean wave.” He described his thoughts as a mixed lot. But he was also a new “parish priest,” of the whole of Northern Botswana and he first to be the resident priest. Fr Urban Murphy C.P arrived in Francistown in Northern Botswana on the 23rd May 1952 five months after his arrival in Bechuanaland. It was this challenge that drew out his best missionary talents that even his best friends never expected.
When he arrived at the station in Francistown he was met by Simon Seabee who took father to Doctor Reacher’s house. In this house mass had been said a few times a year by a priest who travelled over from Bulawayo to stay a few days. The Doctor and his wife were Polish refugees. He worked for the Veterinary Department in Francistown. After tea and a chat the good doctor introduced Fr Urban to what was the Catholic Church in Francistown . Mrs Reichart got the mass kit from their spare room – a Missal, two candlesticks and a threadbare set of vestments. The Doctor took him to the door of the house and pointing to the African location in the south-west of the town said to Fr Urban “there’s the location, Father, and somewhere in those huts are 13 catholics. That’s your congregation. And there’s your Church.” Fr Urban could just see a crooked oval shaped mud church which had seen better days. The optimism in Fr Fr urban must have made him say ‘well, it’s a start,” but his heart must have sunk that there was so little to work with.
A few months later he was to describe the outlook on that first morning as rather bleak. – “no house and a thatched mud hut, to serve as a church,” a gust of wild would dismantle it.
“By the way Father.” The Doctor continued, “when will you be leaving?” “Leaving” replied Fr. Urban. “I have just arrived, Doctor!” “Oh!” Continued the Doctor, “they come, they go, no one stays in Francistown.” Quietly Fr. Urban replied, “I have come to stay, Doctor.” He could not fail to notice the look of surprise and disbelief on the Doctor’s face.
Fr. Urban was here to stay and immediately got down to work. He had a list of things to do to settle down. He paid a courtesy visit to Government Officials, got permission to celebrate Mass in the Courthouse for the Europeans and Coloureds. At that Mass were two Europeans – Dr and Mrs Reichard, the ones who had welcomed him on Friday. He arrived on a Friday and Sunday masses had to be arranged. Madd for the Africans was said in the mud hut. He had to arrange his first accommodation with no priest house; he took up residence in the Grand Hotel for three months paying $14 per month for board and lodging.
Fr Urban did not waste any time; he immediately got down to work. He started catechism class for the Africans the following Sunday after his arrival. Ten African catechumens started their instruction. On 25th June he got permission from the Education Officer to teach religious Doctrine to Coloureds in the school.
There was great enthusiasm among the African population at the idea of having a resident priest among them. Up to this time all they had ws a visit a few times a year by a priest from Bulawayo. The Baptism register recorded the names of those priests who visited Francistown. Fr Urban C.M.M seems to have stayed for some time in Francistown and it was he who started the Baptismal register. The mud hut Church was probably built at this time.
In October 1952, Fr Urban wrote a progress report to Fr Cronan Doyle the Provincial. He reports:
The Catholic population is 89; made up of 60 Africans and 20 of whom have received baptism; 25 Coloureds, 16 of whom have received baptism, and 4 Europeans. That does not include the Catholics in the rest of my area, extending from Mahalapye to the Rhodesian border. The full total I will not know until I have completed my touring. These are 32 Catechumens amongst the Africans, and each one receives individual instruction on three days a week.
Amongst the Coloureds there are 8 catechumens and they also receive individual instruction. I find it the best method as their knowledge does not warrant a class. One, in fact, can neither read nor write. Great enthusiasm is shown by the Africans, they have a priest of their own and the prospect of a Catholic School. Day in and day out, the cry is “when is father building the school?”
There are six different native languages spoken here, but after three months of patient teaching of prayers, hymns, and other essential matters of Sacraments, I have learnt Setswana. The Africans attendance at Sunday Mass is practically 100%. There are a few lazy ones that you get everywhere. The marriage question will be the biggest bogeyman to conversion; the men like to have a few women. However, as I see it at present, our hopes are with the children of today,”
This report shows that Fr Urban had worked tirelessly to build up the Catholic Church Community in and around Francistown, teaching catechism and non-Catholics. He was well known for visiting both Catholics and non-Catholics such that many of the non-Catholics joined the Catholic Church.
In 1954, the Catechist Boniface Setlalekgosi, (now Bishop Emeritus) had written about the work of Fr Murphy in the issue of the Cross ( the Irish Newspaper), describing how fr Urban had found nothing in Francistown as compared to the three missions in the South which are started by the German Oblates . Boniface wrote;
Fr Murphy laboured and toiled the blazing sun on a bicycle for the people, showing great symphony and love for the people. He showed great ambition for the conversion of more souls, instructing his congregation on the faith. In six months already he had the first group for baptism and Holy Communion. The years that followed, his community grew and soon people around began to realize the presence of the Catholic Church in the area (Setlalekgosi 1954:176).
Another evidence of his hard work acknowledged by Fr Paul Mary who remarked at the occasion of the opening of the Church in Francistown “further proof if need be of the labours of Fr Murphy (Africa Note book November 1954). That day 67 candidates received their sacraments of confirmation. By this time Fr Murphy had joined Fr Killian who arrived in Francistown in 1953. He had started the building of the church and the priest’s house. The church was officially blessed by Bishop Schmitt from Bulawayo where he also confirmed 41 candidates. Fr Murphy’s presence in Francistown won the hearts of many as a man for all people.
It was not surprising that when he had to go for his first overseas leave, one of the men bringing a basket of oranges said to him. “These are our tears, father.” It was not surprising that when the couch was looking for the shepherd for the newly erected Diocese of Gaborone, the name of Urban Murphy came up. He was a true Shepherd of God’s flock in Francistown. He was now to look after the people of God in his new beloved country Botswana.
Bishop Murphy’s contribution to the Church and the nation of Botswana
First and foremost Bishop Murphy was for the development of the young Catholic Church in this young Botswana nation. This was his burning desire. No effort was too great or impossible for him concerning this aim ‘one fold and one Shepard’ could be taken as his motto. He urged his co-workers in Christ though not always successful, to be united in working in his country. Thus, promoting a good relationship between the church and the state. He was concerned about the spiritual and material development of the people. Under his leadership the Catholic Church in Botswana spread to many parts of the country as well as growing in numbers.
Under his leadership, the church contributed tremendously to the education, health and social welfare of the people of Botswana. Bishop Boniface was to follow in his footsteps, intensifying the role of the church in the society. For example, starting the Cathedral Commercial School, which contributed greatly to the country’s personnel in the 1980s. The provision of drought relief programmes especially in Kgalagadi areas to assist the communities which were hard hit by drought.
Another contribution of the Church was the feeding of the community junior school children to augment government efforts; just to mention a few. Likewise, Bishop Frank Nubuasah SVD in the Vicariate of Francistown has contributed immensely to the growth of the church and nation. Under the leadership of Rev Bishop Valentine T. Same, the Diocese continues this legacy as witnessed in the provision of palliative Care offered at the Hospice in Metsimotlhabe for example.
In the ecumenical circles, Bishop Murphy was an active member of the committee of Botswana Christian Council (BCC). At the time of his death he was chairperson of the social welfare committee of BCC. From then onwards the Catholic Church continued to actively participate in the activities of ecumenical movement in Botswana. Such was Bishop Murphy’s great act of love for the church and the country such that, in 1980, the late President Sir Seretse Khama awarded him a medal for outstanding service to the country.
Bishop Murphy’s missionary strength was in vitiating the people Catholics and non Catholics, teaching catechism and helping many to receive the sacraments. Shortly after his arrival, the number of Catholics in Francistown increased. Even in Gaborone as Bishop, he continued his practice of regular visitation to the homes, hospitals and prison. His homies were not confined to the pulpit only. He would be seen without fail going through the wards at Princes Marina hospital greeting and praying for all patients without discrimination. His visit brightened all those lying in pain.
They were encouraged to accept their sufferings happily through the jokes, a smile and kind wishes and this great sense of humour. In the same way at prison, he prayed for prisoners who were on death roll. He was also a blood donor for the Red Cross Society showing his commitment to welfare of the people especially the sick. It is obvious that Bishop Murphy was living his Passionist call in how he expressed it in working with the sick and the suffering.
Bishop Murphy urged and encouraged all to have special concern for the poor when he gave his coat to a tattered hungry cold man one day in the Gaborone Mall and went his way. The congregation he was to establish took upon him to look after the same members of society, the sick prisoners and those in need.
One of the significant contributions to the church and the country was when he founded the congregation of the Sisters of Calvary. Something that was to promote the work of evangelisation of the Catholic faith and the church in Botswana and to see the church making a significant contribution in the society.
It was also his burning desire to see the church served by its own local sisters and priests who could express themselves fully about the message of Christ needing no interpretation. He also wanted to see the local sisters educated in order to respond responsibly and meticulously to the duties assigned to them. He found in the Sisters of Calvary, the future of the church. To the Sisters of Calvary, he stressed that it was utterly most important to be united. It was only through unity that they could achieve their aim.
Faith is strengthened through challenges. It may seem that Bishop Murphy’s life was all a bag of roses, in fact there were challenges endured, it is said there are no roses without thorns. One of his challenges already was in being given obedience to be a missionary, to come to the unknown world, Bechuanaland living his country, family and the retreat ministry he loved most was one.he thought he would be back in Ireland after 5 years not knowing that the Lord had other plans for him.
Unknowingly, he rightly said in his letter to his mother, that it seemed the Lord wanted him to do something for the people of Africa. Another challenge when he arrived in Bechuanaland was his assignment to the north, far away from his confreres, finding very little on the ground.
At the end of his life, Bishop Murphy had not only a little more for the pagan people in Africa but had become one with them. On the 27th February 1981, he died at a Kendridge hospital in Johannesburg at the age of 58. This was God’s will for him as he wrote to his mother. His remains lie where it used to be his rose garden, not inside the Cathedral as it is customary for Bishops.
Fr Urban Murphy’s personality
As a person, Bishop Murphy was a simple, loving, humble and hospitable man. He had the most tremendous sense of humour. He was also a peace loving person who loved justice. This was clearly expressed in the way he helped married couples, broken families and individuals who need his assistance working tirelessly with them.
His simplicity and humility featured in his homilies which were mostly seasoned, so to speak, by forgiveness as a stepping stone to peace and love. He was a happy and friendly person to all irrespective of age, race, stats or dominations.
He had a gift of making everyone around him feel important. Children were fond of him as he often performed his tricks with his dentures which to the mild of the children, he was performing magic, removing his teeth and putting them back. Thus would amuse them as they gathered around him.
Murphy became popular among the Africans in Francistown such that they nicknamed him, “Thandabantu,” one who loves people. He had his own way of reaching out and evangelising people and personally teaching catechism. In the scourging heat of Francistown, one could see him on his bike or walking doing visitation.
His simple ways of interacting with the people drew many people to God and to the Church. His commitment to the Passionist life was remarkable. Like the Apostle Paul, he was zealous in his missionary work and had great compassion for the poor, the sick, the prisoners and broken families.
There were incidents where he had to widen up at night to resolve marriage issues. One would say he had internalised and lived his Passionist spirituality which moved him to be closer to the people irrespective of their situation.
Bishop Murphy understood his faith not as something abstract, divorced from the situation of the people. Rather, his was a living active response to the gift of God’s love which he shared with others. The greatest, best expression of God’s love, peace and harmony. His faith therefore was characterised by two values namely compassion and development of the whole person. Put rather bluntly, the truth is that he was not an idea or ideals worthy of a man. He was by no means intellectual and he knew it in studies he had a flavour for Mathematics but for other academic accomplishments he had little instinct, neither was he a great lover of philosophy nor theology. To have to study them at all for him was hard work. His only motivation was to pass examinations in these subjects thus enabling him to become a priest.
Nevertheless he had a highly developed practical intelligence, a fine memory and an instinct for diplomacy. His outstanding characteristics were his simplicity and he could not understand why “people should make life or spirituality complicated. When an intellectual discussion was on, his remark would be, “will you cut that high blooming stuff.”
If asked his opinion, he would often dismiss the question with an affected voice, declaring “relatively speaking or rather.” His simple ideas and ideals were to be a good Religious person.
This means simply keeping his Passionist rule. In this he was rather outstanding. He was first, had to be first for all observances of rule and was a little annoyed when in the rare occasions anyone surpassed him.
Bishop Murphy valued his religious life very much. His religiosity was nourished from and by his up-bringing from childhood. The Murphy family treasured the rosary and the Holy Mass, He came to believe that without prayer life as a religious person will be in vain.
Bishop Murphy’s prayerfulness was nourished by his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and praying the Stations of the Cross which he did every day. Some would think he hardly said a Hail Mary because he seemed to fast genuflect and move on to the next station. He also had great devotion to our Lady and recited the Rosary daily.
Bishop Murphy’s relationship with the Sisters of Calvary
Bishop Murphy was always a ‘father’ to the Sisters of calvary. Sr Rosemary remembered him driving her to Lobatse when she first joined. He told her that being a religious person was not a ‘child’s play,’ it is something serious that was needed for the spreading of the gospel. He told her she would work alongside lay people and in experience, discovered for herself the difference it makes when you are a religious person.
Sr Rosemary remembered his weekly visits to Morning on Mondays, the conversations and discussions on religious life and the Church. He never wanted to see the sisters hungry. Good food was essential, after all that was what he promised Fr Boniface at the beginning that the sisters would eat well. He would joke and have fun with the sisters.
He was a good mimic. All the same he would always make sure that his visits do not go until 20:30 because as he used to say: “the sisters wake up early for prayers so they need to have a good sleep.”
Whoever came to visit the sisters in the evenings and he happened to be present, he would remind them that sisters have to sleep and get good rest. She summed it up by saying he was very wise and loved by all.