The congregation founded by Eileen O’Connor was saddened this week by the death of its former Congregation Leader, Sister Patricia Murphy, in the 60th year of her religious life.
Sr Patricia died peacefully in Liverpool Hospital on the evening of the Feast of St Anthony, 13 June, following a short illness. She was accompanied by her sister companions from Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor and the Sisters of Charity, family and friends all along her journey home.
She received a special Apostolic blessing from Bishop Peter Ingham on the afternoon of her death.
Sr Patricia entered Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor in 1958 and served the sick poor from the congregation’s branches at Coogee, Brisbane and Newcastle.
In 1975, she was appointed Superior General following the retirement of Mother Agnes (May) McGahey MBE the previous year.
Sr Patricia was the first congregational leader who was not one of the original companions of co-founder, Eileen O’Connor, and the first to be elected, rather than appointed.
She guided the congregation during a period of tumultuous change in the years following Vatican II and the deaths of the remaining foundation sisters and co-founder, Father Edward (Ted) McGrath.
During her second term as leader, the congregation decided to establish a fourth branch to serve the sick, poor and disadvantaged in Sydney’s south-west suburbs.
Leading by example, Srs Patricia Murphy and Kerry Macdermott took up residence in Minto in 1984.
The pair quickly became much-loved figures in the Campbelltown and Minto communities.
Their close involvement with the indigenous community led to the formation of the Aboriginal Catholic Ministry in Minto in 1993.
Over the years, their ministry evolved from nursing services to providing welfare and advocacy for the disadvantaged and marginalised.
Six years ago, the branch relocated to Macquarie Fields.
Sister Kerry Macdermott described her sister companion as a ‘truly wonderful’ person who worked tirelessly for the disadvantaged.
“Patricia has supported so many people over the years,” she said.
“She was a beloved friend to many.
“Often she was the only friend they had.
“She saw them regularly, often weekly, and over the years, came to be seen as a mother or grandmother figure by many families.
“They loved her and she loved them … She showed them the face of God and that God loves them.
“Eileen’s motto was, ‘No other means save love’, and that is how Patricia lived her life.”
Sr Patricia was born in Sydney in 1935 to Josephine (née Gilbert) and Alf Murphy.
Her mother died in childbirth 18 months later and the family moved to Lismore, where Alf’s parents lived.
In a memoir collected in 2014, Sr Patricia recalled travelling to Sydney each year to spend a holiday with her maternal grandparents.
“I would always make a point of looking out the window as the train was approaching Central Station,” she said.
“I was fascinated with the little houses and the tiny backyards that backed onto the railway.
“They were the slum areas and I often wondered what the lives of the people living there were like, not realising that one day I would know first-hand.”
Patricia attended a number of schools conducted by the Sisters of Mercy, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart and the Presentation Sisters.
She completed an 18-month business course before spending five years with the NSW Department of Education.
“I was considering religious life and was eager to become part of a group that was focused on the poor and deprived,” she said in her memoirs.
“After reading an article about the ministry of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor, this was my choice and I entered the following year.”
Sr Patricia is predeceased by her parents and a brother, Anthony, who died in infancy.
She is survived by her brother, Paul, and sister, Judith, and their families; members of the Gilbert and Murphy families; and the sisters of Our Lady’s Nurses for the Poor.
She will be remembered by her community and congregation as a loving woman who dedicated her life to the service of the poor, living the joy of the gospel every day.
Her Mass of Christian Burial was due to be celebrated at the Church of the Holy Trinity, Minto, on Friday 22 June.