KILLARNEY has said a poignant final farewell to a larger-than-life personality who inspired the town to always put its best foot forward and, in the process, he proved himself to be an inspirational community activist who always had the best interests of the people at heart.
Archdeacon Michael Murphy – loved and remembered as Fr Michael – was laid to rest in the grounds of Holy Cross Church, Kenmare earlier today following a moving Requiem Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral, Killarney where he had been based for several years during his long ministry.
Fr Michael was just 11 days short of his 95th birthday when he passed away last Saturday, at Killarney Nursing Home, where he resided since sustaining dreadful injuries in a road accident five years ago.
Killarney became his home following his retirement from the priesthood and he had lived very independently up until the time of the accident, spearheading the local tidy towns initiative and leading Killarney to the prestigious overall national award in 2011, just as he had done in Kenmare in 2000 and Sneem in 1987.
Following his ordination 70 years ago, the Annaghmore, Headford native spent some time in Motherwell in Scotland before returning to Dromtariff and later serving in Ballinskelligs, Tralee, Killeentierna, Killarney, Sneem and, finally, Kenmare.
When he retired in 2004, he moved over Moll’s Gap to Killarney – where he had previously served as a curate from 1971 to 1981 – and he loved nothing more than tending to flowers and vegetables in his garden, meeting the people to discuss the news of the day, visiting schools and hospitals and celebrating Mass in the Presentation Convent Chapel.
With his very familiar energetic stride and always cheery disposition, Fr Michael also embarked on daily litter patrol duties, encouraging many others to follow his example in the ultimately successful push for tidy towns glory.
The chief celebrant at this morning’s Requiem Mass, Fr Michael’s younger brother, and former Bishop of Kerry, Dr Bill Murphy, said he believed in getting his hands dirty and many will remember him for his involvement in the social life of the various parishes in which he served and for the tidy towns projects he promoted.
“Even as a student in Maynooth, he spent most of his free time working in the garden,” he reflected.
Bishop Bill said when Fr Michael was injured in the accident in December 2015, the hugely active life that he had experienced up to that time came to an abrupt end and, after a spell in hospital, he took up residence in the nursing home where he received excellent care.
He said throughout his long ministry, Fr Michael had a faith that was “as solid as a rock” and although the accident deprived him of the opportunity to enjoy his daily walks in town and in the national park, and working with friends in the town towns, he never once complained.
Bishop Bill said his brother often quoted a motto that Pope Francis has hanging on the door of his Sanctae Marthae apartment in Rome which reads: “The 11th Commandment: Thou shall not complain”.
He said he also regularly reflected on how amazing it was that one’s world could be turned upside down in one second and, Bishop Bill said, that was a message that should be heeded by everybody.
“Fr Michael’s faith and hope sustained him throughout his life, no matter what the difficulties and no matter what the challenges and, especially, during the last four years,” he added.
“He lived a long and full life. He touched the lives of so many people and he made many friends,” Bishop Bill added.
Over 30 priests con-celebrated the funeral Mass and Bishop Bill was also joined by Bishop of Kerry, Ray Browne, and the Bishop of Cloyne, Billy Crean, a native of Tralee.
Fittingly, tidy towns volunteers, in trademark yellow bibs, provided a guard of honor as Fr Michael’s funeral cortege passed through the town he loved, winding slowly through the streets that he ensured were presented at their immaculate best.
On a bright and calm Tuesday morning, Fr Michael Murphy would have been proud of the wonderful town he helped create; just as Killarney will always remain grateful for his incredible contribution to the community and its people.
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