4 May 1950 to 29 December 2013
‘Whatever you do to one of these, the least of my sisters or brothers, you do to me’ (Matt 25:40).
Margaret Mary Murphy
These amazing words of Jesus caught my imagination as a teenager – took root in my heart. I knew that I was being drawn to a life of totally belonging to and serving God in those most in need.
Not that I was always too keen about the prospect! I had never had contact with sisters who weren’t teachers or nurses. This call, however, was something different. I could only explain it as a call to join a religious congregation ‘that did everything’.
Well, that was a laugh really! I wasn’t even one of those people who was overly good at practical skills. I didn’t know any congregation of sisters then (in the 1960s) who had a varied range of works.
When I was 15, a sister I knew asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a religious. For the first time I was able to tell someone. She didn’t laugh when I said that I wanted to go to a congregation which did everything. In fact she suggested the Sisters of Compassion and gave me an address. I wrote, and in the next holidays I flew to Wellington and stayed for a week spending time with Sisters in various areas of service. I knew that if I was to join religious life, it was here I would come.
For the following six years I kept in touch with the sisters. I completed my teacher training and taught for two years. The feeling that I could not make a commitment to any other way of life remained with me. I entered at 21 – 28 years ago.
I can’t say I’ve done everything – yet! I can’t say that I’ve really depthed the understanding of those words which first affected me so long ago. I can say that I have begun to know personally the God who calls me to see and serve him in those most in need. In learning to open my life to God’s healing and providential care I have found myself in situations I would never have chosen. Some people have told me that I have been an instrument of divine providence in their lives. Others have given flesh to God’s love for me.
Life in religious community hasn’t always been easy. It is as much about learning and living relationships as life in any group. The way has not always been clear. I have had, and still have, much to learn, the most difficult and painful lessons being the ones that, in hindsight, have been grace-filled. Out of pain and experience has come empathy for others. I have grown in relationship to Jesus and to Mary. She stood at the cross not able to do anything practical for Jesus, only to be there for him.
I continue to learn that this is perhaps the most precious gift I can give to others in seemingly hopeless situations. I continue to learn that being there when there is nothing that can be done is the heart of compassion.
I’m coming to realise more deeply the inside-out of those words. Jesus says to me, that whatever has happened to me and happens to me now, happens to him. As I understand this amazing love more and more, I can relax into the providential love of God. God can then more easily bring love and hope to those I am called to serve.
Gratitude grows in my heart – gratitude to those who have journeyed with me, most particularly to those so often judged to be the least. These include the children I have taught, the old people I have nursed, the young people with disabilities who have been so much part of my life, the marginalised people of Wellington’s inner city. They are God’s gift, they who call forth the compassion of Jesus in me. What a gift. What a life. How could I want any other?
Congregational leader Sr Margaret Anne Mills says, ‘Since the Soup Kitchen days Margaret Mary was in the pastoral care role at St Joseph’s Home of Compassion. She said many times to me, ‘You are not going to believe this – but this job was made for me’.
‘Margaret Mary was also a member of the Jerusalem community and starred in the film How Far is Heaven. In particular, the film focuses on Sr Margaret Mary, a nun who is new to Jerusalem and who devotes herself to ‘accompanying’ the community in its daily life.
‘Visit www.howfarisheavenfilm.com to see the film’s promo or buy a DVD. It is a wonderful inspirational and teaching tool that all budding teachers could learn from.’