Sunday, February 21, 2016



Monsignor Frank Murphy
I met Monsignor Frank Murphy many years ago. He was one of four priests who concelebrated the funeral Mass of a priest who died in prison in New Mexico.  Father Frank's last assignment was in Alaska where he was loved.  He made a mistake and was exiled.  He had a small ranch in Cuba, New Mexico to which many priests went to hold retreats, but more importantly, Father Frank took in guys just out of prison, and those who had no money and little hope, and he let them work the ranch in exchange for food and a small salary. Of course, some men took advantage of him, but he always gave them a second chance. He never gave up on anyone.

After the funeral of a fallen priest in New Mexico, we were invited to visit Msgr. Frank's ranch. He took me into the farm area where there was a herd of llamas who allowed me to touch their faces and to feel their soft soft fur.  One of his dogs had not yet met the newest baby llama and was anxious to.  The baby stood beside its mother who lay on the grass as the baby jumped over her and back again to escape the nose of the doggie who wanted only to welcome him.

We had lunch with Msgr. Frank and afterwards Dolores scrubbed his bachelor-lived-in kitchen.  Later we had Mass in a tiny chapel on the grounds.  The chapel was not yet finished, and Fr. Frank shared that sometimes mice peeked out from the ceiling.  I thought it interesting that the mice sometimes attended Mass and I kept looking up to see them.  I never did.

Fr. Frank showed us various unfinished projects around the ranch. People came and went, as did Father's ideas for the farm.  When an idea came, he then dropped the previous project and began a new one.  He had not finished the chapel.  There was an unfinished two-person outhouse, and even the beginnings of a new retreat center.

Dolores gifted Fr. Frank with a truck that she and her late husband used in Alaska. Fr. Frank was delighted! His old truck was just that - old and failing, but it was all he had. Dolores was happy to help Fr. Frank in his mission to help others. He drove us into Albuquerque in his new truck where we saw him off  for the last time.

And then his health began to fail.

He sold the llamas to a doctor nearby, but the doctor asked Fr. Frank to let the llamas remain on his property because coyotes were attacking and killing them. So the llamas were back with Fr. Frank even though the doctor owned them.

It began with a blood clot in his leg due to a slight injury.  His doctor was in Albuquerque, about two hours from Cuba as the crow flies.  At least now he had a reliable truck to drive to and from Albuquerque. Over the months he kept in touch with Dolores in California and with me in Indiana.  If he didn't reach one of us, he would call the other one - on his good days, when he felt up to talking.

As we heard less and less from him, Dolores contacted someone in Cuba who looked after Fr. Frank and we learned that his time with us was short. He called Dolores one month before he died and she said he sounded good and was cheerful and she thought he was doing a lot better. She said his voice was strong and he seemed his old self.

I loved hearing from him. He usually had to leave a message for me since I invariably missed his calls. He would begin, "Excellency, this is Frank in Cuba. I understand you've been in Rome straightening out things at The Vatican!" He was a riot!

And then he died.

He suffered a lot before he died. Some good people in Cuba loved him, and looked after him. During his last days friends came from afar to say farewell and to just be with him.  Yes, Alaska weeps, as do many who knew this good man.  He always had a smile, a joke on his lips, and loved playing the piano. He will be remembered for the priestly good he did in helping others and challenging them to challenge themselves.

Rest in peace, good priest, Monsignor Frank Murphy.  One of God's own.

No comments:

Post a Comment