Sister Nancy Murphy, OSU: Always putting others first

A prospective sale dried up, and since then, every other potential buyer of the property has met an obstacle. It’s given Sister Nancy a chance to better know the people of Belleville.

“This is a very Catholic area. I’ve found these people are so appreciative and respectful of sisters,” Sister Nancy said. The people from the area stay in touch with the former Belleville Ursulines who are now at the Motherhouse in Maple Mount, Sister Nancy said. “When Nancy (Liddy) and I came, these sisters really embraced us. A presence here is important,” Sister Nancy said. “It’s a good feeling here among these people. When I go to the Mount, the Belleville Ursulines like to know what’s happening here.”

Sister Marilyn Mueth was a Belleville Ursuline, and continues to minister in nearby Millstadt, Ill. “I truly appreciate Nancy Murphy for what she’s done. She left her own mother to come here,” Sister Marilyn said. “She’s the type of person who sacrifices herself for others. I really admire her, she never complains.”

Sister Nancy Liddy, who shares the Villa Angela house on the former Belleville campus with Sister Nancy, said her friend is always working behind the scenes to make others look good.

“She’s a natural leader, but she sees herself as a behind-the-scenes person,” Sister Nancy Liddy said. “She’s just a pleasure to be around. She’s a gentle person. Nothing is beneath her and nothing overwhelms her.”

The two pray and eat together, and reach out to other religious communities in the area, Sister Nancy Liddy said. “We share a lot of friendship with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ and the Notre Dame Sisters.

“She’s very faithful to all that we do as religious,” Sister Nancy Liddy said. “At 6:45 every morning she’s at Mass at the Cathedral. She’s really doing two full-time jobs, but her prayer life helps her balance that.”

Her gentle spirit does not extend to the groundhogs that keep tearing up the property where they live, Sister Nancy Liddy said.

Sister Nancy visits with Dodie Klingelhoefer in August, who was being honored for 20 years of volunteer service with the Programs & Services for Older Persons.

“She’s at war with these groundhogs.”

Farm girl

Sister Nancy grew up on a farm, just a stone’s throw from Maple Mount in the small community of Curdsville. Her father, Joseph Hugh Murphy, was a farmer, her mother, Mary Helen, was a homemaker. “We lived next door to my grandparents,” Sister Nancy said. “Those houses are still there, which bring back many good memories when I drive by them.”

Sister Nancy was the third oldest of nine children. “We helped out in the garden, and did other household chores,” Sister Nancy said. “We often played softball in the front field with my cousins. I was kind of a tomboy,” she said. “We helped in the tobacco patch, but I was too short to do much except drop tobacco sticks.”

Her life revolved around the farm, with rarely a trip into Owensboro.

“There was another family down the road. We’d walk to Mass and play together in the summer. We didn’t go to town but once a month,” Sister Nancy said. “We raised our own food, and mother ordered our clothes through the Sears and Roebuck catalog. We just lived on the farm.”

She attended St. Elizabeth School where her teachers were Ursuline Sisters. One of them, Sister Clarentia Hutchins, is retired and lives in Saint Joseph Villa at the Mount.

Like all five of her sisters, Sister Nancy attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy as a day student.

“There was a big difference between the boarders and day students at the Academy,” she said. “There were more day students than boarders in my class.” She was fond of her teachers, and several of them are now retired to the Motherhouse, including Sisters Lennora Carrico, Marita Greenwell, and Mary Eileen Howard.

When she was 14, tragedy struck the family when her father died of a heart attack. “My mother didn’t drive. My brother, Tom, was 16, so he assumed the responsibilities,” Sister Nancy said. He continued the farming until he became a rural mail carrier. Now after retirement, he is writing his second book about his travels around the world.

Sister Nancy’s mother is 94 and lives in a nursing home in Owensboro. Her mother’s courage in the face of adversity provided a strong example for the family.