By George P. Matysek Jr.
The finishing touches were being put on the new church at St. Timothy in Walkersville 19 years ago when someone suggested that Monsignor Richard Murphy place the cross atop the steeple.
Agreeing, the pastor climbed aboard construction equipment to guide the familiar symbol to its heavenly perch as parishioners sang “Lift High the Cross.”
“It was like putting the cherry on top,” remembered Monsignor Murphy, who had devoted countless hours working with parish leaders to make the long-sought building a reality. “It was a very moving occasion.”
Whether it was building a new church or a stronger sense of Christian community, Monsignor Murphy poured himself into his ministry. Now, 43 years after his ordination, the 69-year-old Baltimore native has begun a retirement that keeps him as active as ever.
Baptized at Shrine of the Little Flower in East Baltimore and raised in St. Matthew Parish in Northwood, Monsignor Murphy knew from a young age he was meant for the priesthood.
After attending Mount Washington Country School for Boys in Baltimore, he went straight into minor seminary at St. Charles in Catonsville. From there, he studied at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and in Rome.
Early in his priesthood, Monsignor Murphy served as associate pastor of St. Isaac Jogues in Carney and St. Matthew in Northwood. In 1982, he became associate pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Hydes, and, in 1984, took the same position at St. Anthony of Padua in Gardenville.
Monsignor Murphy was named pastor of St. Thomas More in Baltimore in 1985. He served as pastor of St. Timothy from 1989 to 2004, and then again from 2011 until his retirement this summer. He was also the pastor of St. Ann in Hagerstown from 2004 to 2006, and pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Frederick from 2008 to 2011.
“What was always important to me was to be with a community in prayer and to help a community develop a sense of mission and catechetical ministry in the church,” he said.
Some of his most memorable moments in ministry included working in a newly launched RCIA program at St. Matthew and nurturing faith-sharing programs at St. Matthew and St. Anthony. Monsignor Murphy also helped accompany grieving parishioners at St. John through the illness and death of Father Wayne Funk, his mentor and predecessor at the Frederick parish.
Building the new church at St. Timothy was challenging, Monsignor Murphy said, but it brought the parish together. Input was sought at every step along the way, he said, and parishioners paid off the church debt within three years.
In his retirement, which began June 30, Monsignor Murphy assists in hospital ministry four days a week at Frederick Memorial Hospital. He helps out with Masses at St. Joseph in Hagerstown, St. Augustine in Williamsport, St. James in Boonsboro, St. John in Frederick and St. Timothy.
Monsignor Murphy, who recently returned from an African safari, can also be found spending a lot of time in the gym. He wants to be in shape so he can join parishioners from St. Timothy on a November mission to Nicaragua to build homes for people in need.
“What better way to end the Year of Mercy?” he asked.