Sister Nancy Murphy, OSU: Always putting others first

“As a principal, Nancy was very professional and super organized,” Sister Margaret Marie said. “She did an excellent jobas the leader of the school. Shehad great respect for her faculty and the students.Sheis a very strong lady in dealing with any circumstance which occurs.”

Sister Margaret Marie, who now ministers in Louisville, described Sister Nancy as “a beautiful woman of prayer who shares her prayer life with so many.She exemplifies kindness, compassion, and understanding to all with whom she comes in contact. I feel Nancy isa beautiful blessing to our community and to all who know her.”

Sister Nancy left Paducah in 1980 and had surgery that summer, so returned to ministry in October of 1980, replacing an ill sister at St. Ignatius School in Louisville for the rest of the school year.

Sister Nancy lives on the former Belleville Motherhouse grounds with Sister Nancy Liddy in Villa Angela, a home with much character, such as this wooden staircase.

From 1981-84, she had her first ministry outside Kentucky, teaching with Sister Marie Carol Cecil at St. Angela Merici School in Florissant, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis. She enjoyed St. Louis, where she saw “The King and I” with Yul Brynner at the Fox Theatre, but they closed the convent there when she and Sister Marie Carol left.

That would be her last classroom assignment.

A time for growth

“I was ready to move out of the classroom. I wanted something to help me grow spiritually,” Sister Nancy said. “Sister Mary Irene Cecil (then major superior) asked me to be part-time juniorate director, and part-time assistant financial aid director at Brescia. I had no formation background, and no financial aid background. For some reason, it was the most graced time of my life.” The juniorate were the sisters who had made temporary vows, but not their final vows.

“It was very stretching and challenging, a time of spiritual growth for me,” Sister Nancy said. “I had nine junior sisters. Sister James Rita (Sims) told me my years of lived experience were the greatest gift I could give these people. I’d had hard times in community, which helped me to understand their difficult times,” Sister Nancy said.

“Sister Rosalin Thieneman was so patient with me to teach me the financial aid program,” Sister Nancy said. “I enjoyed working with her and being part of the Brescia community.”

In 1989, Sister Nancy was asked to become local superior at the Mount, a title Sister Nancy changed to local coordinator.

“We didn’t have lay administrators,” Sister Nancy said. “I did 16 funerals the first year. We celebrated many feasts and holidays. I liked it very much.”

Sister Nancy Liddy said Sister Nancy played an important role for the sisters during those days.

“A lot of sisters came home to the Motherhouse in the summer, and there were larger numbers of sisters,” she said. “A lot of the older sisters were very obedient, they felt they needed to ask permission,” for various needs. “She was key in encouraging those sisters to think for themselves.”

In 1994, Sister Ruth Gehres, then president of Brescia, offered her a job as grants writer with Sister DeChantal Whelan, and assistant director of institutional research with her former classmate, Sister Helena Fischer.

“I never really got into grant writing, then became part-time director of novices and part-time director of institutional research,” she said. “I completed surveys, completed the first fact book at Brescia, stats for accreditation and a strategic plan. It was a lot of detail work.”

Sister Nancy got used to having multiple jobs at once.

In 1999, she worked with Sister Pat Rhoten as assistant community life coordinator at the Mount, and was attending a long-distance formation program. “I was directing older candidates in the novitiate.”

Sister Nancy during a lighthearted moment with other members of the Associate Advisory Board, from left, Mary Ann Schilling, Paul Gray, Sister Maureen Griner, Michael Ziegler, and Marian Bennett.

She was ready to leave Brescia, and in 2002 became full-time director of novices, which included a class with Sister Monica Seaton and former member Sara Murphy.

“I was ready, I didn’t want to work with figures the rest of my life,” she said.

In 2003, while still handling the role with novices, Sister Pat asked her to act as associate local coordinator, a position she worked well in. “We both like to decorate,” Sister Nancy said with a smile.

Sister Pat, now retired to the Motherhouse, said Sister Nancy is able to “take the ordinary and make it extraordinary” in her decorating, but that was not the only reason they got along well.

“She is a wonderful listener,” Sister Pat said. “She doesn’t make snap decisions. You know when she’s listened to you, she’s really heard you.”

In 2005, Sister Nancy was ready to leave the Mount, and took on her new adventure in Belleville.

In her spare time, Sister Nancy likes to work with flowers, walk, and cook. “I just like to be,” she said.

She enjoys living with Sister Nancy Liddy. “She knows me like a book,” Sister Nancy Murphy said. “She has been a longtime loyal and supportive friend who brings her gifts of spontaneity and laughter, her deep spirituality, interesting conversation and her overall goodness to community. Wherever she is, she wins the hearts of people because she sees with her heart.”

Sister Nancy Murphy’s latest endeavor is serving on the Associate Advisory Board, a group of sisters and associates who help shape the direction of the Ursuline Associate activities for the year.

“Serving on the board is a way of stretching myself. Associates are those who will keep us on the move,” Sister Nancy said. “They are such good people, so spiritual, they really inspire me.”

By Dan Heckel