Some thoughts about two wonderful people who have led me to think about some things that really matter.
1) I received word this morning (10/22) that our beloved brother priest and friend, Father Lawrence Murphy, died during the night. The news saddened but did not shock me because I knew that by all human measure the time left before his entrance into fullness of life was clearly growing shorter each day.
His departure from our company is a sadness as well for his many friends and for the great number of people whose lives were touched for more than 50 years by the ministry of this kind and gentle man.
I remember meeting Larry at St. Bernard’s Seminary in September 1957. I was a new student and Larry was in his last year of studies prior to his ordination. A common interest in sports brought us together. I remember him as an excellent athlete and great competitor. He always played hard. When he won or when he lost, he did so with grace. But most of all — and extending far beyond the sports field — I remember his kindness to and encouragement of us new students.
Twenty-two years later, when I came to Rochester as bishop, Larry offered me the same kindness and encouragement he had shown me when I was 20 years old. As a special bonus for me was his residence with us at Sacred Heart Cathedral for the first five years of his retirement. The experience of living with him offered a privileged window into his priestly character and expanded the awareness I already had of the wonderful ways in which he made a positive difference in the lives of so many.
2) Last night (10/21) in Elmira, Sister Carmella Coene, RSM, and Robert Egan received the McAuley Award at a festive dinner held for the benefit of Notre Dame High School in Elmira. The award named in honor of Catherine McAuley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, recognized the enormous contribution each has made to the school during its 53-year history.
Bob Egan, a member of the school’s first graduating class, is the father of eight, a prominent businessman, a generous contributor to the life of the Elmira community and to Notre Dame High School. Sister Carmella had a long and distinguished teaching career including a tenure of 42 years at Notre Dame.
In her comments upon receipt of the McAuley Award, Sister Carmella, who will celebrate her 100th birthday in December, spoke beautifully and simply about the choices she has made during the course of her life. Shining through her comments were her love for the children she has taught, her reverence for the teaching profession, and her convictions about the importance and power of education.
What impressed me most about her comments was the joy she expressed about having been a Sister of Mercy for 80 years. Her vocation to religious life, she told us, nourished her commitment to teaching and helped her to understand the ultimate purpose of teaching — to help people come to the full peace of freedom and holiness for which they were made.
Father Larry and Sister Carmella. Larry called home at 77. Carmella going strong at 100. Neither amassed much by way of earthly possessions but both lived in ways that truly made a difference for others. Both — Larry even in his last hours and Carmella in her 100th year — enjoy a serenity and peace that are unshakeable.
Remembering them at this moment, I thanked the Lord for the gift of life and for people like Carmella and Larry. They teach us how to live. They remind us of what is important and what is not. They challenge us in their own gracious ways — to think about what drives us, about our deepest values and our final destiny.
I am grateful to both of them for their faithful witness.
Peace to all.