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  • A Reflection on the Life of Sister Rosemary Murphy
A Reflection on the Life of Sister Rosemary Murphy

A Reflection on the Life of Sister Rosemary Murphy

In the first reading this evening John reminds us:  “We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers and sisters…..”.  Using these criteria we know that years ago Sr. Rosemary passed from death to life.  How appropriate it is that we celebrate this final passage from death to life with her on this feast of Pentecost!

As I have reflected on Rosemary’s life several themes keep popping up.  Four, in particular, I single out for reflection.  I say “single out” but in fact singling out is impossible!  These themes keep overlapping and running into each other.  It has led me to think of her life as a kaleidoscope of beautiful elements that enhance and interplay with one another.  I think you will see what I mean.

The first theme that comes to mind is FAMILY.  Rosemary was born in 1924, the first child of Miles and Rose McNally Murphy.  In time she was joined by Kathleen, Myles, Mary Anne, Patty, Margaret, and Tom.  No doubt Rosemary first learned practical housekeeping lessons from her mother Rose as she helped with the care-taking on the busy Murphy farm near Carthage. 

It is the family connection that very naturally first led Rosemary to St Mary’s Academy.  Not only did Rosemary attend and graduate from SMA…..her mother Rose was also an SMA grad…  So FAMILY led Rosemary to the ACADEMY, the second theme in Rosemary’s life that stands out for me. 

The ACADEMY led her to COMMUNITY, the third theme, and COMMUNITY led her to the final theme which is MINISTRY.  It is not difficult to see how each of these themes light up every aspect of Rosemary’s journey through life…and to notice the interplay.  Thus, the image of a kaleidoscope.

Rosemary says that the family spirit and opportunity for service are what attracted her to the community.  Once in the community, her gifts and skills for hospitality, teaching, and home-keeping were recognized and developed.  She began teaching in grade school but before long was teaching Home Economics at the Academy.  Altogether she spent 27 years in various ministries at the Academy.  Former students and RAs she worked with continue to stay in touch with her.  Rosemary had a way of loving AND also challenging, offering friendship AND being a mentor that endeared her to many.

When I entered the community, Rosemary was a dorm prefect and teacher of Home Economics.  I remember her as always on the go, working on a project like planning an event or sewing costumes for the class play.  One image of her in those days has stuck in my mind.  It is of Rosemary—probably after lunch-- standing at the door by the dishwasher, the one that opened to the walkway from the Priory to the Academy.  She would have one hand on the door handle ready to open it and the other hand on her hip waiting for Sr. Kathleen Aubry who was coming behind---but still engaged in conversation.  The two shared friendship and love of teaching, as well as incredible gifts of creativity and generosity of spirit.

In her archives, I uncovered 3 diplomas marking Rosemary’s educational degrees.  The first diploma measures 5 1/2 x 8" from Marycrest College; the second, measures 5 x 11" from the University of Illinois, and the third is a 12 x 18" diploma from St. Mary's Academy!  I think their relative size might be a reflection of their importance in Rosemary’ s heart!  

Rosemary’s multi-talented gifts were put to good use in places other than the Academy too.  Among other things, she taught at Bergan High School and served as a housemother at a sorority at Bradley University.

Among us, both before and after her retirement, Sister Rosemary has been a community builder par-excellence.  She has brought people together for work, for play, for food, for prayer.  She has been a co-creator of that family spirit which attracted her to our community in the first place.  She never stopped being a nurturer, welcomer, and woman of gratitude…  Just a few days before her death she asked me “How’s Margaret?”  For all that, we are so grateful!

That brings me back to family.  We know how devoted Margaret is to Rosemary and to all the Murphys!  We are so sorry that we cannot hear some treasured stories from the nieces and nephews.  We are grateful that they will be with us via live-streaming as we celebrate tomorrow.  We know that the family links with us continue to be strongly nurtured!  I recall that fairly recently a new member of the clan was brought to visit Rosemary and Margaret.  He is Miles Kenneth and is their great great nephew, and the great-grandson of Irene Murphy.

You will remember that at our March chapter we celebrated Sr. Rosemary’s 75th Jubilee.  After celebrating with Anne at Vespers we all gathered in Rosemary’s bedroom.  I asked, “Do you know why we are here?”  She responded with GUSTO:  Yes, to renew my vows!  Rosemary did renew her vows and signed them then we sang the Suscipe together.  (That was just before we had to begin our social distancing!)  Sister Anne wheeled in and they congratulated one another.  I imagine them congratulating each other again…these few months later!

Sister Rosemary, we grieve your loss and we celebrate for we are confident that the Lord has received you according to his Word….and that you will live with him forever!  For this, we give praise and thanks to God!




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