Fr Michael McCabe, SMA Provincial Leader, preached at the Funeral Mass for Fr Dan Murphy SMA which took place a St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork on 22 October 2014. The following is the text of that homily.
“As for me my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart. I have fought the good fight to the end. I have run the race to the finish. I have kept the faith”. As Dan crosses the threshold of the pearly gates he could well echo these words of Paul. His life was indeed poured out in the service of the Lord. He fought the good fight to the end, ran the race to the finish and kept the faith. We can rest assured he will receive ‘the crown of uprightness’ which the Lord has promised to all his faithful servants.
Dan was born in Ardcairn, Ballintemple, on 16 July 1932 – one of eight children of Patrick and Mary Murphy, 4 boys and 4 girls. As a young boy Dan served Mass in St Jospeh’s SMA Church on Blackrock Road and would have had the opportunity to meet many SMA missionaries home on leave from the missions or in the service of our mission on the home front. Probably because of their influence on him, Dan decided at the age of 14 to become an SMA missionary priest.
All his secondary education and preparation for priesthood took place with the SMA. Along with 15 others Dan was ordained a priest on 18 December 1956. Described by his Superiors as “hardworking, zealous, solid and respectful”, Dan was a good organizer and could always be depended upon to carry out his responsibilities conscientiously.
Following his ordination, Fr Dan’s first missionary appointment was to Archdiocese of Lagos where he was to minister for over 40 years with a few brief intervals in Ireland. The first of these intervals was from 1961 – ’63, when was Dean of students at the SMA House, Wilton; the second, thirteen years later was from 1986 – ’88 when Dan undertook mission awareness and promotion work in Cork and Dublin.
Dan’s missionary life coincided with a period of remarkable growth and development of the Church in Nigeria. He worked mostly in busy city parishes, though he also served in some rural parishes. He was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lagos from 1982 – ’86 and Secretary and Chancellor to Archbishop Okogie from 1988 to 1993. In 1993, on the cusp of his sixtieth birthday, Dan wrote to his Provincial Superior, stating that it was time for him to leave Nigeria, and requesting a home appointment. In response to the tributes paid to him at that time for his years of service in Lagos, Dan wrote:
“I only did my duty. Nevertheless I feel happy at the small contribution I made to the development of the Church in Lagos and for having upheld the honour of the SMA. As more and more religious orders come to Lagos, they all acknowledge that they are reaping a harvest sown by the SMA. I am proud to have been involved.”
In June 1993 Dan was appointed as curate in the parish of Passage West, Cork and Ross Diocese. However, the missionary calling still burned strongly in his heart and, within less than a year, he returned to Lagos and worked there for another ten years: three years in the busy parish of St Sabina’s, Agege, Lagos; five in charge of the SMA House, Obanikoro; and two years as Guest Master in the SMA Regional House, Challenge, Ibadan.
Dan lived through a time of great change not only in mission fields but in the Church in general, especially in its understanding of itself and its mission. I am not sure that all of these changes were to Dan’s liking. Towards the end of his active missionary apostolate in Nigeria, he was upset by an article he read in the SMA Bulletin by a certain ‘Joe McCabe’ which, he said, made him feel that he had wasted his time on mission. I remember asking him, at the time, if he thought that he had wasted his time. His reply was emphatic: ‘No definitely not’. Well then, I said, don’t worry about what this ‘Joe McCabe’ wrote. What is important is that you know you did not waste your time.
Indeed Dan did not waste his time. He was a hard-working and dedicated missionary who, as the First Reading today reminds us, brought the Good News to the poor, brought healing to hearts that were broken, freedom and hope to those made captive by their fears. He had every reason, then, to be proud of what, by God’s grace, he had contributed towards the building up of one of the strongest and most vibrant Churches on the continent of Africa.
I also note that Dan took responsibility for keeping himself updated on the changes taking place in the Church and in Mission in the post Vatican II era. In 1970 he took part in a Refresher Course for Missionaries run by the IMU. Ten years later he participated in the Renewal Programme run by the Redemptorists in Marianella and in 2002 he took part in the Ecce Homo Biblical Renewal Programme run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion, Jerusalem – a programme he particularly enjoyed as it gave him an experience of the wider Church and of people from other cultures. In 2004 Dan retired to live in Blackrock Road where he enjoyed reasonably good health of several years and took pride in that fact that he was AFT (available for tasks). While in failing health for the past six months, Dan received excellent care and support from the nursing staff and carers of St Theresa’s Nursing Unit.
I have mentioned already that Dan was a very conscientious, hard-working missionary. At the same time his life was not “all work and no play”. Dan also knew how to enjoy life. He played a regular game of golf for many years and he loved a ‘sing song’. Many a time, he regaled his confreres in Blackrock Road, with his marvellous tenor voice. Among his favourite songs were “Panis Angelicus” and “The Holy City” but not – may I add – “The Stone Outside Dan Murphy’s Door”. May he now join the choirs of angels in regaling the company of the saints in heaven.
Read Obituary of Fr Dan Murphy SMA