Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Richard J. Murphy, SJ, who died on February 7, 2021, at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 91 years old. May he rest in peace.
Dick was born in Chicago on December 29, 1929. After graduating from Saint Ignatius College Prep (1948) and earning a bachelor’s degree in commerce from Loyola University Chicago (1952), he entered the former Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus at Milford Novitiate in Milford, Ohio, on September 1, 1954. He was ordained on June 14, 1964, at West Baden College in Indiana, made tertianship during 1965-1966 in Salamanca, Spain, and pronounced final vows at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago on December 12, 1975.
While in the Society, he earned master’s degrees in industrial and social relations (1965) and counseling psychology (1971) from Loyola University Chicago.
During regency, Dick taught history and English at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland (1959-1961). During theology studies, Dick informed his superiors that he would be contented and happy to go to Peru and, after ordination, he was missioned to be an associate pastor at Parroquia de Cristo Rey, Juliaca, Peru (1966-1969). He returned to Chicago and taught psychology and Spanish at Saint Ignatius College Prep in addition to his duties as a student counselor. Dick left secondary education in 1974 to counsel married couples and families at Catholic Family Consultation Service in Chicago (1974-1988). While he was working at Catholic Family Consultation Service, Dick also taught pastoral theology and was a member of the ministerial team at Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago (1979-1982). In his “free time,” he was superior of the Holy Family Jesuit Community (1984-1987).
In 1988, Dick was missioned to be the assistant rector of Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeleyd in California. He returned to Chicago in 1992 and was the associate pastor of St. Procopius Parish and superior of the Miguel Pro Jesuit Community (1992-1995). He then was missioned to be the associate pastor of St. Ignatius Parish in Chicago (1995-1998). Dick moved to Tucson were he was the superior of the Vatican Observatory Jesuit Community (1998-2004). After a much deserved sabbatical, Dick became the minister of Loyola House Jesuit Novitiate in Berkley, Michigan (2005-2009). Dick returned to St. Procopius in Chicago where he was an associate pastor before becoming the minister of the [newly formed] Taylor Street Jesuit Community (2013-2018). He was missioned to St. Camillus in 2018 to care for his health.
Dick is remembered very fondly by the Jesuits of the Vatican Observatory community at Tucson not only for his good leadership and dear pastoral care as community superior, but also for the open-minded zeal with which he embraced learning about astronomy. The Jesuits were moved and touched by how eagerly and generously Dick worked to enter into their scientific world.
Although sometimes stubborn or worrying too much about something, Dick was a good natured and easygoing person. Early in his second year of novitiate, after receiving novocaine in preparation for a tonsillectomy, Dick had a violent allergic reaction to the anesthetic. The reaction not only endangered his life, but left his lungs filled with fluid. He was hospitalized for a while and then it took months for Dick to fully recover. Throughout his sickness and the many months of recovery, Dick kept his positive—and grateful—attitude.
Dick was a gentle, loyal friend who accompanied both Jesuits and many others. He was a therapist for the poor who worked in both Spanish and English. Dick had a keen sense of humor and enjoyed sharing anecdotes and stories. He often was asked to be a superior and minister in challenging settings such as Holy Family and the first stage of the Miguel Pro Community at St. Procopius Parish in Pilsen. As superior, Dick dedicated himself to creating a community that was livable and enjoyable. His care for brother Jesuits was expressed in his friendship and service.
Dick was a kind, generous, caring man who was the “salt of the earth.” Dick was humble, unpretentious, and always ready to do anything that was needed or asked of him. When talking with others, he was ready with a smile, a kind word, or story. Dick was a devoted priest and Jesuit who was very thankful for the life God gave him. His gratitude, easily discernable by others, was infectious and prompted others to be thankful for what God was doing in their lives. Although Dick returned from Peru to the United States in 1969, his heart was always with the Latino people, and he performed Hispanic ministry throughout his life.
Dick was cremated and funeral arrangements are pending as a mutually agreed upon date and location are being arranged with Dick’s family.