Msgr. Murphy; chaplain, professor, pastor - Catholic Courier

Msgr. Murphy; chaplain, professor, pastor

Msgr. J. Emmett Murphy, whose priestly career of nearly 70 years included service as a military chaplain, seminary professor and pastor, died Feb. 27, 2008, at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford after a short illness. He was 94 years old.

Msgr. Murphy grew up in Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish, attending the parish school before moving on to St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester. He then studied at the North American College and Gregorian University in Rome, and was ordained at the North American College on Dec. 8, 1938.

He served as assistant pastor at St. Francis of Assisi in Auburn from 1938-41 and at St. Francis deSales in Geneva from 1941-42. He enlisted in the United States Army the day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, and began duty in early 1942. Msgr. Murphy served as a chaplain until 1946, attaining the rank of major and logging stints with the Persian Gulf Command and in Europe.

Upon returning to the Rochester Diocese, he briefly served as an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral before becoming a professor of moral theology and canon law at St. Bernard’s Seminary in 1946. He taught there until 1961 and also served as the seminary’s prefect of discipline. In 1956 Pope Pius XII raised him to the rank of papal chamberlain, with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor.

Msgr. Murphy’s lone pastorate commenced in 1961 at Rochester’s Holy Apostles Parish, where he remained until his 1983 retirement. He was named a diocesan consultor in 1968.

Father Dennis Bonsignore recalled that he was a sixth-grader at the former Holy Apostles School when Msgr. Murphy began his pastorate.

“Once I decided for the priesthood, he became my most important mentor,” said Father Bonsignore, who is now the chaplain at Monroe Community Hospital. “He was a stabilizing and profoundly influential person in my life.”

Rose Marie Lombard noted that, as a teenager, she worked for Msgr. Murphy as a parish receptionist and years later took him on Communion calls because he didn’t drive.

“When he had the Blessed Sacrament on him, we did not talk in the car. He wanted to keep silence out of respect for the Blessed Sacrament. After the last stop, then we could chat on the way home,” said Lombard, who now serves as Holy Apostles’ director of evangelization.

“I always thought he was a great preacher. He had a loud voice; he really proclaimed the word,” she added, also noting that Msgr. Murphy constantly studied in keeping with his scholarly background.

Meanwhile, Father Paul Tomasso pointed out the monsignor’s pastoral qualities.

“Msgr. Murphy is remembered for visiting the sick and walking these streets and knowing everyone by name. He absolutely walked everywhere, even to the hospitals, and took time for every person. There are tremendous stories of him giving great assistance to people in need and those who were suffering,” said Father Tomasso, the current pastor of Holy Apostles.

“He was universally loved because he loved universally,” Father Bonsignore stated.

Upon his 1983 retirement, Msgr. Murphy moved to Rochester’s Holy Rosary Church. In the early 1990s he took up residence at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, where he remained until his death.

Bishop Matthew H. Clark was scheduled to preside at Msgr. Murphy’s funeral Mass on March 1 at Holy Apostles Church. Interment was to be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Msgr. Murphy is survived by nieces and cousins.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Sisters of St. Joseph, 150 French Road, Rochester, NY 14618 or to a charity of choice.

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