Sister Nancy Murphy, OSU: Always putting others first


Sister Nancy Murphy completed her ministry in Belleville, Ill., in 2010 when she began serving her six-year term on the Ursuline Leadership Council, and served as congregational secretary. Since 2016 she has continued as congregational secretary.

Sister Nancy stands outside Southwestern Illinois College, where she works with the Programs & Services for Older Persons.

After graduating from Mount Saint Joseph Academy in 1959, Sister Nancy Murphy said she was floundering. “I babysat for a couple. I started going to Jenkins Business College (in January 1960), I was going to be a secretary,” she said.

God had other ideas, and even apparently had a hand in her choice of accommodations. “I was boarding in Owensboro across from Sts. Joseph and Paul Church, admiring the sisters at Mass every day,” she said. “One day I was receiving Communion and it became apparent I should be an Ursuline Sister. I cried and cried.

“It was hard to tell people what had happened inside of me,” Sister Nancy recalled. “I called Mother Mary Wilfred Hayden (the mother superior) in March, she said I could come in August. It gave me time to get myself psyched to go. I gave up square dancing. I loved my lipstick. I loved dressing up. It was hard to leave my family and friends behind.”

Now in her 48th year as an Ursuline Sister, Sister Nancy has made plenty of new friends in the many places she’s ministered as a teacher, administrator, novice director, and office worker.

“She’s a wonderful person,” said her friend, Sister Catherine Barber. “She’s a person you can trust.”

Sister Nancy is a person who listens well, because she makes people a priority, Sister Catherine said.

“People are more important to her than anything,” she said. “She’s fun. I’d rather go out to eat with her than anyone else, she really enjoys it. I’m always comfortable in her presence.”

Since 2005, Sister Nancy has taken her ministry to Belleville, Ill., where she is the local coordinator for the small community of sisters, and maintains the former Motherhouse property that is up for sale. Since October 2007, she has worked as an office clerk with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Belleville, part of the Program and Services for Older Persons that’s sponsored by Southwestern Illinois College.

Sister Nancy poses with her co-workers, Adela McColpin, a grant specialist for PSOP, secretary, and bookkeeper with the RSVP program.

“Sister Nancy is truly a godsend,” said Sharon Hamilton, director of RSVP. “She could be a supervisor. She sure is a treasure, we love having her here,” Hamilton said. “She’s so efficient, it’s mind boggling.”

Her duties include data entry of new volunteers in the program and keeping their records current, Sister Nancy said, but Hamilton said it bothers her that Sister Nancy’s abilities are underutilized.

Sister Nancy started at RSVP because there were fewer things to do at the convent. “I like working here, it’s a good place,” she said, although she hopes to have the chance to minister in Kentucky again so she can be closer to her family.

She came to Belleville when the community was in the process of merging with Mount Saint Joseph.

“Sister Michele Morek (congregational leader) mentioned that she would like to send someone to relieve Sister Dorothy (Helbling) so she could take a sabbatical,” Sister Nancy said.

“I came thinking it would be a year,” Sister Nancy Murphy said. “I didn’t really know what I’d be doing — getting ready for merger, clearing out the buildings, taking responsibility for auctions.” She was also present to Sisters Mary Patrick and Frances McDonagh, who were at the Motherhouse at the time, as well as Sister Dorothy.