Sister Frances Murphy, MM

Born: October 12, 1907
Entered: December 8, 1930
Died: May 14, 1988

After many unseasonably cold, cloudy and rainy days, we awoke to a beautiful sunny day on Ascension Thursday, and we could say Spring is here at last. It was a free day for us and many Sisters had planned a day of picnic, play and fun. Sister Frances Murphy was in this holiday spirit that morning wrapping gifts for the Sisters celebrating their Silver Jubilee the next day. In the afternoon, she took a stroll out in the sunshine, then went to visit the Sisters in the Nursing Home and while there wrote some letters for Sister Herman Joseph – something she did regularly. She also made a date to have picnic supper with her friends, Sisters Magdalena Urlacher and Jean Theophane Steinbauer. Sister Frances fell ill that evening and was taken to Phelps Memorial Hospital where she died at 8:40 A.M. on Saturday, May 14, 1988.

That one day in Sister Frances’ life captured the essence of her more than 57 years as a Maryknoll Sister. It was a life of dedicated service in a gentle, unassuming way; always generous and thoughtful of others and at the same time quick to express her gratitude for anything done for her. She was keenly interested and eager to be involved in Community activities and had recently signed up as a member of Center-Cerns.

Frances Clare Murphy was born in New York City on October 12, 1907. She was one of three children of George and Frances Scallon Murphy. She completed grade school at New York City P.S. 132, graduated from High School at St. Catherine’s Academy, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with Teacher Training from Mt. St. Vincent College in New York, in May, 1928. Frances worked 2½ years as a substitute teacher in New York Public Schools before joining Maryknoll on December 8, 1930. Her religious name given to her at Reception was “Sister Maria Regis”. She made her first profession on June 24, 1933 and pronounced her final vows three years later. When Sister Frances received her assignment in September 1936, it marked the beginning of her 50 years of mission and ministry with the Chinese people including a short period of camp internment during World War II. Her first 14 years were in Mainland China, another 14 years in Hong Kong and the last 22 years in Taiwan. She came to the Center in May, 1987 for Renewal and remained there.

Sister Frances learned and spoke 3 Chinese languages: Hakka, Cantonese and Mandarin that were immensely  useful in carrying out her many and varied ministries throughout those years. Whether engaged in direct evangelization and pastoral work, teaching in primary school or University, helping in refugee relief work, assisting in formation of a local community of Sisters, providing a house of hospitality for prostitutes, or having a “simple life and prayer presence”, Sister Frances’ motivating force was her deep faith. As she wrote in her reflections a few years ago, “I was drawn to a missionary community because I wanted to share my faith with those who did not have it. I love people and the fact that there were those who did not know Christ and the love and hope that faith in Him held, seemed to me to be too tragic to just forget about.”

Like her namesakes, St. Francis and St. Clare, Sister Frances’ desire to live simply as the poor has been part of her entire mission life, starting from her first arrival in Kaying when she soon asked permission to give her breakfast egg to one of the poor children in the nearby homes and seeing the laundry women wringing out bedsheets by hand, proposed that the Sisters no longer use them. In Hong Kong and in Taiwan this desire for simplicity of life grew stronger and became more evident in her choices of ministries and lifestyle. Her reasons were clear in her reflections, “I wish to live my faith in Christ among people who seek happiness in the market place and street and crowded rooms. I want to find Him there and point Him out to my friends.”

Without doubt, Sister Frances had found and met Christ countless times in the people of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Now her joy is complete as we firmly believe she has met Him face to face in her new Life with God.

We celebrate today this Eucharistic Liturgy for Sister Frances. To Sister’s other relatives and friends we extend our sympathy. We welcome the celebrants of the Liturgy, Father John Moran and Father Alan Borsari of Maryknoll, who were fellow-missioners of Sister Frances in Taiwan.