Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy
Rector, 1973 - 1978
The Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Virtual Library
offers a rich and comprehensive view of his life and ministry.
The virtual library consists of the following components:
Archbishop Murphy High School of Everett, WA and
Mundelein Seminary generously provided the funding
to develop the Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy Virtual Library.
Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago, ordained Thomas J. Murphy in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception on the grounds of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary on April 12, 1958. Father Murphy was one of 43 priests ordained that day.
Bishop Murphy shared the following reflection on his ordination in his weekly column in an April 1979 edition of the Montana Catholic Register, “April 12th will mark the 21st anniversary of my ordination to the priesthood. It seems like only yesterday when my mother, brother, sister, family, relatives and friends joined with me in that unique happening that occurs in the life of a priest when God will take an ordinary human being and give that person a unique privilege and vocation. So many memories flood my mind even as I type this column. My father had died only a few years before, and an Irish mother could only do one thing as she tried to hold back the tears of joy that were mixed with a tremendous sense of pride – and so she cried even more.”
Mundelein Seminary played a seminal role in the formation of Thomas Murphy – as a man, priest and a bishop. The lessons he learned at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary formed the foundation of his ministry and vision of the church. Archbishop Murphy shared the following thought in an address delivered at Mundelein Seminary in April of 1997, “Yes, I know Mundelein is called ‘the enchanted forest,’ ‘the land of Oz,’ and ‘the middle of nowhere,’ but even to this day, this seminary and these grounds have a rare beauty that is unequaled. There are places on these grounds that are still haunting for me. There are places where I have laughed and cried, wondered and argued.”
The Mundelein experience left an indelible impact on Thomas Murphy in enumerable ways. One of the most profound was his reverence, respect and love for the priesthood. He developed a great appreciation for the critical importance of well-rounded priests who are able to deliver quality pastoral service. This appreciation would serve him well. John Cardinal Cody, Archbishop of Chicago, appointed the Reverend Thomas J. Murphy as the fifth rector of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary on September 15, 1973. He shared the following thought in his inaugural ‘View from the Bridge’ address in October of 1973, “These are my views from the bridge. Views rooted in two goals of seminary education:
- “We are involved in training men for ministry in service to this local Church. We cannot let ourselves become a trade school where ministry is so narrow that it only embraces one segment of society. We have to be sensitive and willing to the exercise of ministry with the poor, the underprivileged, the neglected, as well as the affluent and educated.
- “We are involved in training men for pastoral ministry – with each individual brining his unique talent to this task.”
In his role as rector, the Very Reverend Thomas Murphy quickly gained a deep appreciation for vocations and how critical they were to the local church. Its very future depended on helping young men throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago hear the call to ordained ministry. Bishop Murphy defined his vision of the essential qualities for priesthood in an address to the National Catholic Education Association in April of 1979, “I believe the qualities of the young man preparing for priesthood today should include:
- “A deep and integrated spirituality which comes from a lived faith experience;
- “An ability to relate to and to minister to others by calling others to ministry;
- “A perception of one’s sexual identity in relationship to the charism of celibacy;
- “An awareness of the responsibility of the priest as the public minister who is competent theologically;
- “A healthy appreciation for the response to and use of authority;
- “A willingness to grow in ministry;
- “A sense of the graciousness of God who enhances and enables the human talents and abilities we possess.”
Archbishop Murphy returned to St. Mary of the Lake Seminary for the last time in April of 1997 – three months prior to his death. He shared the following thoughts in his weekly “In Joy and Hope” column titled “It doesn’t seem that long ago” published in the April 10, 1997 edition of The Catholic Northwest Progress.
“I have to admit that I always enjoy visiting this particular place. It was in the Seminary Chapel of the Immaculate Conception that I was ordained a priest some 39 years ago this week. It really doesn’t seem that long ago. Every time I visit the seminary, I stop to visit the chapel and a flood of memories go through my mind.
“Mundelein, IL has been a significant part of my life. I hope my visit next week will not just be a time of nostalgia. Most of all, I pray my experience going back to where so much of my life has roots will not be like the salmon that returns to where it all began only to die.
“Rather, I pray that I may find with renewed faith and hope the incredible God who has shared so much with me these past 39 years. I pray, of course, that God will continue to share with me the incredible gift of life that I can never take for granted.
“It is a grace to be able to look back. It is even more of a grace to look ahead, and I give thanks. May God’s gifts of grace and peace be yours in abundance.”
At the time of his ordination, Thomas Murphy’s view of his future ministry was a simple one. He wished to serve the people of the Archdiocese of Chicago in whatever role the Lord had in mind. His vision for the future never went beyond serving in parishes throughout the archdiocese as an associate and ultimately to become a pastor. He cherished these roles. Never in his wildest dreams did he envision what the Good Lord had in mind for him. His ministry began in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan, took him to the great plains of Eastern Montana and concluded in Seattle on the shores of Puget Sound. No matter where his calling to serve the church led him, Archbishop Murphy valued and relied on what he learned from the Mundelein experience to guide him personally and professionally.