Tributes to late Fr Liam Murphy

Much-travelled missionary and Tarbert native dies aged 86

Fr Liam Murphy
Fr Liam Murphy

The late Fr. Liam Murphy C.S.Sp.

On 8th March 2013, one day after his 86th birthday, Kerry missionary Fr. Liam Murphy died.

Liam was born in 1927 in Tarbert to Mary (née Sheahan) and Patrick Murphy. He had seven sisters and three brothers. At the age of 18 he entered the Spiritan (Holy Ghost) novitiate which was then in Co. Tipperary. After his philosophy and theology studies in Kimmage Manor in Dublin, he was ordained to the Priesthood in July 1953.

Appointed to Nigeria, Fr. Liam worked in pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Owerri from 1954 until he was assigned to Kabba Prefecture two years later. There he would combine pastoral work and teaching in a secondary school.

He returned to Owerri in 1959, teaching liturgy and moral theology at the Senior Diocesan Seminary. What might have become a life-long ministry in Nigeria was cut short in 1968 when, along with over 300 other Irish Spiritan missionaries, some of whom were imprisoned, he had to leave the country due to the civil war that had seen Biafra seek to secede.

For the next four years Fr. Liam ministered in St. Kevin's, Flushing, New York and at the same time undertook scriptural study in the city's St. John's University that would mark his subsequent life and ministry. Coming back to the US in the late 1980s he completed further post-graduate studies, in counselling and psychology, while based in a parish in Florida.

Well-known for his line 'You have to play the game of life with the cards that you have got in your hand', Fr. Liam was Provincial Secretary for his congregation in the mid-1980s and for a time was attached to Templeogue College, one of a number of Spiritan schools in Dublin.

He ministered extensively in counselling and retreat-giving across a number of Irish dioceses, being particularly active post-Vatican-II in a renewal programme with congregations such as the Bon Secours and the Mercy Sisters in Munster, and with his fellow Spiritans in places such as The Gambia. He also undertook hospital chaplaincy work in Limerick for a number of years when attached to that city's St. John's Cathedral.

After prayers at 1.30pm on Tuesday, March 12th, the removal of Fr Liam's remains will take place from Kimmage Manor to Rockwell College. His connection to the Co. Tipperary school dated back to the years of World War II when he was a secondary school student there.

As a young seminarian he returned for a two-year period as 'prefect', and as an experienced missionary he spent a period of more than two decades there until failing health saw him move to his congregation's nursing home in Kimmage Manor in 2012.

Burial after Requiem Mass at 12.30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13th will take place in the Spiritan cemetery in Rockwell where amongst other Spiritan missionaries interred his fellow-Kerryman, Fr. Tim O'Driscoll, who died in October 2012 at the age of 102.