Graduate Student Essay
A SIMPLE PRIEST WITH A BIG DREAM: MONSIGNOR TERRENCE MURPHY’S VISION OF A CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY
By JOAN WIELAND ’20, ’22 CSMA
I first met Monsignor Terrence Murphy – the 13th president of St. Thomas – not as a biographer or historian, but as a reader of his own words. As part of an assistantship coupled to my graduate pursuits in Catholic Studies, I was asked to transcribe the handwritten and typewritten homilies and speeches Murphy gave throughout his career. The documents were compiled and shared by his family after years of waiting in an old trunk. The sense of preciousness inherent to the documents originally slipped my notice, falling between intensive studies and the mundanity of PDF transcription copies.
When I began, I didn’t know Murphy was the man whose statue gestures heavenward outside of McNeely Hall. But I knew his handwritten scrawl had an unfortunate tendency to jilt like a seismometer when he reached a crescendo. Through perseverance and much squinting, I swooned. What got me hooked on all things Murphy was not the murals, the statues or the newspaper articles about him. It was the content of his homilies. Impressed and compelled, I rocketed through the project of transforming his handwriting into a digital text, and in a scholarly frenzy, I believed I had discovered an unknown hero of the local church.
Thanks be to God that before I could embarrass myself too much, I realized that I was not the first. The threads of Murphy’s life are woven into the campus. Like most Tommies, I know the more quotable names in university lore: Archbishop John Ireland, Bishops Dowling and Binz, and Mr. Ignatius Aloysius O’Shaughnessy. The more landmarks I found gesturing toward the accomplishments of Murphy, the more I was saddened that in discussions of our university, none of my classmates were acquainted with who – I am convinced – has been one of its most instrumental players.
St. Thomas Lumen Fall/Winter 2022 Page 11
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