Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

MURPHY Francis né le 8 octobre 1915 à Philsboro
dans le archidiocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 15 décembre 1942
décédé le 19 août 2002

1943-1946 Blackrock Road, Cork
1946-1963 Rome, maison générale
1964-1995 collège Saint-Brendan, Hilton, Australie
1995-2002 Hilton, Australie, retiré
2002 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 19 août 2002
à l’âge de 86 ans

Brother Francis MURPHY (1915 - 2002)

Francis Murphy was born in Phibsboro, Dublin, on 8 October 1915. He died in the South Infirmary, Old Blackrock Road, Cork, Ireland, on 19 August 2002.

Francis Murphy was the only son of Patrick and Mary Murphy. The family address was 7, North King’s Street, Dublin. After completing his primary education Francis went to work as a printer’s machinist. Eleven years later he decided to join the Society as a brother. At this juncture he was living at 9 May Lane, off Church Street, his father having died in 1933 and his mother in 1939. As to how his interest in missions developed we do not know. However correspondence between him and the Irish Provincial Superior, Stephen Harrington, shows that he was Honorary Secretary of the Mission League, which raised funds for missionary work. Francis entered the Society’s house at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, on 15 June 1940. Two years later, on 15 December 1942, he received his first temporary oath. He was to take his permanent oath of membership on 15 December 1948.

Francis’ first appointment was to the SMA house at Blackrock Road, Cork (January 1943-October 1946). In the winter of 1946 his life took a new direction when he was asked to go to the Society’s headquarters at 324 Via de Gracchi, Rome, to assist in the running of the house. Francis was to remain in Rome until 1962. During his tenure he served under three Superiors General and during the reign of two Popes, Pius XII and John XXIII. During his sixteen years in Rome Francis met the reigning Pontiffs on many occasions and, at times, acted as an interpreter for groups he brought to meet the Pope. He also frequently met Monsignor Montini, later to become Paul VI, during the latter’s period in the Secretariat of State. These were enjoyable and fulfilling years but Francis still longed for ‘real missionary work in Africa’. In 1960 he visited Nigeria and Ghana. The visit came about partly through his work in Rome when he often arranged flights at the airport for visiting missionaries. Al Italia decided to open up a new route to Nigeria and kindly gave Francis a ticket on the inaugural flight. However his desire to work in Africa was thwarted when nervous sickness intervened and forced him in 1962 to return to Cork. Before leaving Rome he attended a private audience with Pope John XXIII who gave him a much cherished blessing.

A new and again very different phase in Francis’ life opened in January 1964 when he was appointed to the Society’s mission in Australia. That mission had been opened in January 1963 with the purpose of attracting young Australians to serve in Africa. Based in Perth Archdiocese in Western Australia the Society assumed responsibility for the parish of Christ the King, Lefroy Road, (about 20 kilometres from suburban Fremantle) and, two years later in 1964, opened a secondary school, named after St. Brendan, at York Street, Hilton. Francis, a founder member of the new College, was appointed secretary and bursar. The other founding members were Elisha O’Shea (Principal) and Martin J. Walsh (Dean of Studies). Francis’ duties went way beyond his secretarial and bursarial work. He taught all subjects at primary level and also tutored in Italian and French language for secondary level. In addition, there were many Italian migrants in that quarter of Perth who spoke no English and Francis did much to help them.

In 1967 Francis celebrated the silver jubilee of his SMA membership. Two years later he visited South Africa and the United States while in 1973 he visited New Zealand and Rome. Twenty years later, in 1993, he was also to visit the SMA Foundation in the Philippines. During his visit to Rome he met Pope Paul VI and had a ten minute discussion about Australia. He was also interviewed on Vatican Radio. Perhaps a more poignant encounter was witnessed by this writer who happened to be in Rome at the time. He accompanied Francis to St. Peter’s Square where without any prior arrangement Francis hoped to meet a photographer he had known some twenty years earlier. The photographer was indeed there, now an elderly man, and they embraced amid the pigeons.

In St. Brendan’s College Magazine for July 1983 several tributes to Francis’ contribution were penned by pupils and past-pupils. One read: ‘Brother Francis symbolizes the Christian faith in our community…He is here to help and guide each one of us; this he has done over the years with great pride and dignity’. Another, quite different in tone, read: ‘Recipe for life: Brother Francis: A pipe, a dog, faith and 400 friends’. Francis was to do nine tours of duty in Australia (1974-2002). Later, in 1990, St. Brendan’s - which had become co-educational in 1980 - was amalgamated with another Catholic school (De Villier) under the title of Seton Catholic College, located at a new campus about two miles from St. Brendan’s. Francis remained on the staff and was there to celebrate his Golden Jubilee of SMA membership in 1992. Four years earlier he had relinquished his administrative and teaching duties and had been appointed College Archivist.

A talented and committed missionary Francis included among his hobbies stamp collecting, reading and music. Every three years he returned to Ireland for a short holiday and loved to visit different countries on his way back. He was as active within the Society and parish as in the school. In 1973 he served as the brothers’ delegate to the Provincial Assembly of that year. In Beaconsfield parish he served for many years as an Eucharistic Minister. Moreover, with his knowledge of Italian, Francis engaged in extensive pastoral work within the Italian immigrant community, helping them to prepare for marriage, preparing their children for the sacraments, and assisting in the filling out of forms and in any immigration difficulties encountered.

Since the mid 1990’s Francis’ health had been deteriorating - with the onset of Parkinsons and recurring cardiac problems - to the extent that by 2001 he was confined to a wheelchair. He was reluctant to leave Beaconsfield, saying on more than one occasion that he wished to die in Australia in his own house. However it was decided by his superiors that for his welfare he should return to Ireland and he arrived at Blackrock Road on 7 June. Soon to follow him by ship came a battery-propelled ‘shop-rider’ vehicle – given to him by his friends in Australia – which quickly became the envy of able-bodied and handicapped alike in Blackrock Road. However Francis’ retirement was to be short-lived. On 15 August he suffered a heart attack and died in hospital four days later. At his own request he was buried in the parish cemetery at Glendalough, Co Wicklow on 22 August.

He is buried in Glendalough, Co Wicklow.