The Southern Cross : March 2011
Page 14 March 2011 www.thesoutherncross.org.au The Southern Cross | feature Like his patron saint, St Francis Xavier, Fr Murphy was an outstanding missionary. Soon after completing his studies in Ireland he volunteered to work amongst the Irish on the English mission. This was at the time of the Industrial Revolution and many of the Irish immigrants worked under atrocious conditions. He was sent first to Bradford in 1824 and then, in 1827, to Liverpool. The Benedictines were active in Liverpool well before Fr Murphy was appointed to the Liverpool parish of St Patrick's, Toxteth Park. Influenced in Liverpool by the visiting Bishop John Polding OSB of Sydney and Fr W B Ullathorne OSB who were working in Australia, Fr Murphy volunteered to join the Australian mission. He was stationed in Sydney between 1838 and 1844 and took on the role of Vicar General during Archbishop Polding's absence overseas. Dr Ullathorne had visited Adelaide in 1840 and was appalled by the harsh environment here. To his dismay he was appointed first Bishop of Adelaide in 1842. He begged to be spared from such a trial. The task of establishing the diocese then fell on the shoulders of Fr Murphy. Conditions were harsh, particularly during the Victorian gold rush when the population of Adelaide was depleted and Bishop Murphy had to ask some of his priests to leave because he could not support them. Wherever he went, Bishop Murphy was loved by his priests and people. He was a champion at defending the Church when it was under attack. His concerns included the need for Catholic education, deepening the spiritual life of his flock, building churches, breaking down barriers between Catholics and others in the community and the use of art and good music in churches. Through "penny collections" even the poorest of Catholics were encouraged to support church building and charitable causes. Before Fr Murphy arrived in Liverpool they had helped fund the construction of St Patrick's church there. Fr Murphy continued using these at St Patrick's to help the parish schools and the town's dispensaries which cared for the sick. Later he used penny collections for St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney and for the building of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral in Adelaide. Bishop Murphy died of tuberculosis in 1858, just a few weeks before the opening of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral. His body lies near the Cathedral's high altar, beneath the sanctuary floor. The Irish Catholic Directory of 1859, includes the following entry on Bishop Murphy: "This learned, amiable, and enlightened man, was born at the end of the last century, in Navan diocese and County of Meath, Ireland. After receiving the first lessons of religion and piety from his ever respected pastor, the great and good Very Rev. Dr. E. O'Reilly, V.G., he entered the famous seminary in his native town, founded by that distinguished man, and after a few years was sent to the Royal College of St. Patrick, Maynooth. He so signally distinguished himself there by his piety, attention, and talents, that he was appointed to the Dunboyne establishment, and there obtained the accustomed honours. About 1824, he was ordained for the English mission, and officiated in 'the Sister land' as a most active curate, in a locality where there had been no Catholic priest since the formal establishment by violence and rapine of the Reformation. Subsequently, he was appointed to the important mission of Liverpool, where so many thousands of his countrymen were instructed by his lessons of wisdom, and edified by his brilliant virtues and example. Here, for about seven years, he was deemed an apostle, and when entreated by the illustrious archbishop of Sydney to join his Grace, in his far distant labours, the addresses from, and the sighs and tears of thousands of bereaved people, were most moving and affecting. In Australia, his soul expanded like the world of waters over which he had passed, and he wished like his own great apostle, St Patrick, to make every sacrifice for the faith and faithful of Christ." In the floor of the sanctuary of St Francis Xavier's Cathedral there is a plaque that marks the burial site of the Cathedral's bishop- founder, Francis Murphy. While we know some aspects of Bishop Murphy's life, the exact date and place of his priestly ordination remains a mystery. Through a series of articles on Bishop Murphy by local historian HELEN HARRISON, the Southern Cross will endeavour to make him more widely known. Champion of the Church Photo courtesy of Adelaide Archdiocese of Adelaide Archives.