We can be heroes: meet Joe Murphy


Catholic Outlook April 2015: Joe Murphy
It’s not all work and no play: Joe Murphy and fellow seminarians from Holy Spirit Seminary take on seminarians from the Neocatechumenal Way in a soccer friendly. Photo: Alphonsus Fok. 

Originally published in Catholic Outlook April 2015

By Elizabeth Scully

Joe Murphy, 23, is a key player in the Holy Spirit Seminary soccer team. Yet Joe doesn’t list the likes of Tim Cahill or Tomi Juric among his heroes.

The Sydney University graduate has had plenty of opportunity to reflect on heroism. As a Classics scholar, Joe enjoyed his studies of Greek and Latin. But his heroes aren’t Olympians or gladiators.

Catholic Outlook April 2015: Joe Murphy
Joe Murphy.

Raising their growing family in Queensland in the 1990s, Joe’s parents liked to play their kids cassette tapes of reflections by Fr Robert J Fox, a cult figure for many Catholics in the US.

The extraordinary lives of priests were a key theme of these recordings. It was then that young Joe really started to think about heroism.

“It made me think, wow! Being a priest is really something. It’s a really manly, heroic thing to do. I think that was the foundation of my perception of a priest as a young boy,” Joe said.

As Joe speaks about hearing powerful stories of priests braving gunfire to promote peace, administering the anointing of the sick to dying soldiers on battlefields, and martyrdom, a real enthusiasm is in evidence.

Yet as a grown man, Joe’s more fully formed response to these remarkable actions is firmly grounded in an appreciation of the imitation of Christ through the priesthood.

“The sense of selflessness and self-sacrifice, no matter what the cost, is something that really appealed to me. It’s very counter-cultural.”

Joe is a thoughtful young man who values education and speaks highly of the moral instruction he received at high school at Redfield College in Dural.

He is currently doing a pastoral placement at St Oliver Plunkett’s Primary in Harris Park Parish. “It’s a small school but it’s a good one. They’ve got a very good culture there,” Joe said.

In reflecting on advice to others discerning a vocation, Joe quotes St Padre Pio’s famous adage: “Pray, hope and don’t worry.” Yet there’s something both wistful and moving in the way he speaks about giving up the desire for a family and marriage. It’s a very human insight into the self-sacrifice at the centre of Joe’s vocation.  

“Whatever path you pursue in life, it’s having hope that God is going to lead you along the path that will make you happiest and that will serve Him in the best way that you possibly can,” Joe said. It’s not difficult to detect a quiet heroism in that courage. 

For more information about Holy Spirit Seminary click here

To find out more about priesthood in the Catholic Diocese of Parramatta click here

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