Sister Martha Murphy, MM

Born: February 10, 1931
Entered: September 6, 1951
Died: May 18, 1989

“The life of each one of us is woven as it were of two threads: the thread of inward development, through which our ideas, our affections, and our human and mystical attitudes are gradually formed, and the thread of outward happenings by which we always find ourselves at the exact point at which the totality of the forces of the universe converge to produce upon us the exact effect which God desires.”

Martha Murphy lived a life weaving these two threads described by Teilhard de Chardin, her warp and weft were solid, harmonious and colorful. On May 18, in the Maryknoll Nursing Home at approximately 2 a.m., Sister Martha Murphy died after a two year struggle.

Martha Rosalie Murphy, born February 10, 1931 in Millis, Massachusetts to Annie McDonald Murphy and Dennis Murphy, was the 9th of 12 children, sharing life with six brothers and five sisters. Martha’s parents and her sister Mary are celebrating with her in heaven today.

We give thanks to the Murphy Family for gifting Martha to Maryknoll. Because of her experience of family she found it easy to express in her life Mother Mary Joseph’s ideal of family spirit.

Martha attended Millis High School and Wyndham Secretarial School. She worked for one year as a secretary in the Boston Catholic Charitable Bureau and then entered Maryknoll on September 6, 1951, making her First Vows March 7, 1954 and Final Vows March 7, 1960. Martha received her B. E. degree at Maryknoll Teachers College.

Her first assignment was to Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, to Rogers Hall. On the day assignments were read there was great excitement! One of her friends asked her if she had time for a walk. Her response, “My time is God’s time” was typical of her and one of the threads carried through her life.

During her 16 years in Merida she was teacher in primary and secondary school, principal and administrator of the high school, director of the business school and in her last years there aided in the transition of the schools to a completely lay administration. She was still in contact with friends from Merida this past year.

Martha was named the first Administrator of this Center and member of the Center Council from 1975 to 1979. One of the still visible signs of this service are the international suites set up for guests and for visiting, using her talent for decoration and her eye for beauty. She was also in the group effort of building the Maryknoll Nursing Home. These ware difficult times of change at the Center. From morning to night there was noise and confusion on all floors with new construction and Martha was in the midst of these changes, smoothing the way with good planning and good cheer. Her strength and courage never shied away from difficult and unpopular decisions. Her gracious, personal touch and her patient gentle listening, communicated and prepared even the most skeptical for the next event.

Her sense of humor and deep personal spirit of peace helped bring acceptance and enthusiasm, step by step, until all glowed with pride at the finished product. She died with peace in the same 4th Floor Nursing Home that she so wanted to be a place of peace and comfort for the suffering.

In 1979 Martha was invited by Sister Teresa Lilly to work in San Marcos, Guatemala with indigenous Women. She said yes and for the next five years worked in women’s programs in the Dioceses of San Marcos and the Peten. Her way with the women was simple and joyous. There was a theme in the women’s course on Public Speaking: “You are told by the doctor that you have one year to live — what would you do?” Many of the women said, “Just keep on living as we do, what else is there?” Martha agreed with them. Martha was given the theme in reality and chose to keep on living as she always had, joyfully and to the fullest.

A Sister once commented that Martha always adapts herself to any situation. Staying for a week in various villages, sleeping in hammocks, sleeping bags, in the Chapel or wherever, was no problem. Her only complaint would be having to drink coffee with sugar!

In 1984 Martha planned to go to the Quiche, a very war-torn place in Guatemala. But her time was God’s time and being called forth at a Mexico-Guatemala-El Salvador Regional Assembly to be Regional Coordinator she gave up her plans for work with the indian women in the Quiche. She shared community with Sisters Mildred Fritz and Patricia Denny during that time. Her 3-year term as Coordinator was a hard one due to the war situation of Guatemala. She served on the Board of the Guatemalan Conference of Religious, CONFREGUA, and spent many hours making financial arrangements for displaced persons and refugees. Martha greatly facilitated the practical details in setting up the Maryknoll Cloister in the Region. Not surprisingly, she made friends with the owners of the hardware store in Sta. Cruz and from then on it was smooth sailing.

In 1987 her dream was to live among the Quiche people. She got there for a few months and then offered these last two years especially for them and for all of us. She was able to return to Guatemala and begin study of the Quiche language for her work in San Andres Sacabaja with Sisters Judith Noone and Mary Ann Duffy. In June, 1988 she returned to the Center, with increasing health concerns.  Her next year was spent happily, small discomfort but lots of joy with friends and family, prayer, and work in the CGB Secretariat. Her time was still God’s time.

On April 25, 1989 Sister Martha’s illness worsened. Martha set her house in order, cleaning her closet, gifting various things, picking out her “last dress”. Her family visits were joyful and her chuckle could be heard up and down the hall. On April 29, Martha was brought to the Nursing home and for the next two and a half weeks her illness progressed until May 18 when she died.

Martha’s peace, trust and boundless energetic love of life came from an inner prayerfulness, centered in the God within, in people, and in all of life’s events. She shared deeply this faith journey with us her Sisters, with her family and friends and with the people she loved and served so well.

Our memories of “Maaaatha” are many. She has woven herself into our lives in many ways and with her family today we give thanks for God’ s time and her time.

We welcome Fathers William Mullan, M.M., John Fay, M.M., Albert Reymann, M.M., three of our Guatemalan Maryknoll brothers, along with Joseph M. Glynn, M.M., and Leo F. Mc Carthy, M.M., all of whom will concelebrate this Resurrection Liturgy with us.