Sister Nancy Murphy grew up on a farm just a stone’s throw from Maple Mount in the small community of Curdsville. Her father was a farmer, her mother a homemaker, and they and their nine children lived next door to Sister Nancy’s maternal grandparents. Her life revolved around the farm, with rarely a trip into Owensboro.
She attended St. Elizabeth School where her teachers were Ursuline Sisters. Like all five of her sisters, Sister Nancy attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy, where again she was taught by the Ursulines.
When she was 14, tragedy struck the family when her father died of a heart attack. Her mother’s courage in the face of adversity provided a strong example for the family.
“I just remember my mother picked up the pieces and carried on,” Sister Nancy said. “I probably inherited the ability to withstand a lot of stress because of my mother.” Mary Helen Murphy died in 2013, a few months shy of her 98th birthday.
After graduating from the Academy in 1959, Sister Nancy started attending Jenkins Business College to pursue a life as a secretary, but there was something that left her unsettled inside.
She was living across the street from Sts. Joseph and Paul Church in Owensboro, and each day admired the sisters she’d see at Mass.
“One day I was receiving Communion and it became apparent I should be an Ursuline Sister,” she said. It was not an easy decision.
“It was hard to tell people what had happened inside of me,” Sister Nancy recalled. “I called Mother Mary Wilfrid Hayden (the mother superior) in March, she said I could come in August. It gave me time to get myself psyched to go.”
Sister Nancy joined the sisters in 1960 as one of a 29-member postulant class. She is one of five still remaining from that class.
Through the years she has served as a teacher and principal, in college administration, as temporary professed director and novice director for new sisters, and as the local coordinator at the Motherhouse. Following the merger of the Ursuline Sisters of Belleville, Ill., in 2005, she spent five years in Belleville as local coordinator overseeing the property and serving in the community. From 2010-16, she served as an elected member of the Ursuline leadership Council and as congregational secretary. Since leaving office in 2016, she has continued as congregational secretary.
“My life as an Ursuline Sister of Mount Saint Joseph for 50-plus years has been enriched in many ways and filled with amazing graces and healing miracles,” Sister Nancy said.