ROBERT MARTIN MURPHY

ROBERT MARTIN MURPHY
1903-1996
Pastor of St. James Parish
March 22, 1961 to December 1, 1981
Robert was born February 8, 1903 in Braddock Pa of John and Delia Ryan Murphy. He was ordained at St Vincent Archabbey October 20, 1929. His first assignment was as assistant at St Joseph Church in Natrona until 1930. He was administrator at St Mary, Ford City for the next two years. After a brief time at St Joseph Protectory in Pittsburgh and at St Mary of the Point, he returned as assistant at St Joseph Natrona for five years, until 1948. His first pastorate was at SS. Peter and Paul in Beaver until 1952, when he became pastor of St. Joseph Church in Coraopolis. He came as pastor to St. James on March 11, 1961.

Arriving at St. James, Father Murphy undertook to repair fire damage to the downstairs chapel that had occurred just a few weeks before his arrival. He was responsible for adding the wood parquet flooring and backdrop in the sanctuary of the chapel and of moving the chapel confessionals to their present location, using their prior space for rest rooms. His first major undertaking was the construction of an addition to the school, the ‘new building’. Begun on June 10, 1962, it was completed in December 1963.

Father Murphy was pastor during the Catholic church’s years of change brought on by the second Vatican Council. Liturgical changes, ecumenical changes, changes in the role of the laity in the church, though not a young man, he adapted to these new emphases and directions of the church with vigor and wisdom. He guided St James through all these with a vision both profoundly pastoral and far-reaching. He was a fatherly guide to the assistant priests assigned under him to serve St James. He was an example to young men; 6 young men of the parish entered the priesthood under his pastorate.

St James’ choir continued its stellar reputation, recognized through the area as outstanding, with performances at Heinz Hall and appearances at the national Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. during his time as pastor. Social outreach programs to the needy grew during his pastorate, benefiting the parish as well as the community. As president of the Wilkinsburg Ministerial Association, the Wilkinsburg Community Ministry program developed as a joint program of all Wilkinsburg churches, offering help to those in need and giving attention to community issues in the name of a united Christian effort.

Father Murphy stayed on as pastor at St James until the age of 78, when he retired to St. John Vianney Manor, the retirement home for priests in Crafton. With failing health and eyesight, he moved in 1995 to be with the Little Sisters of the Poor, for whom he had always had a fond affection, in the James P. Wall Home on Benton Avenue in the North Side. He died there on May 2, 1996 and was buried from St James Church on May 7th. He is buried in the priest’s plot in Calvary cemetery. He chose the inscription for his headstone: “I lived to be greeted by Christ the Eternal Priest.”

His brother John’s wife, Mabel Murphy, still lives in North Braddock with her daughter Dorothy Monroe and her family. Father Murphy’s sister Ann’s two sons, Carl and Robert Schalles and their families now reside in Florida.

The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. 2 Timothy Chapter 4 v. 17