By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — In a cathedral glowing with the pride of family and friends May 19, no one shined more than Fran Murphy.
At 95 years old, she got to see her son, Msgr. Robert Murphy, vest her grandson, Father Ian Murphy, as one of six newly ordained priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
And although he credits his entire family, including Uncle Bob, for nurturing what for him was a very early call from God to the priesthood, Grandma gets most of the credit.
“My grandmother is a huge point of inspiration,” Father Murphy said.
“She always felt that my great-grandmother was disappointed that she had married my grandfather, Arthur Robert Murphy IV,” he said.
“My great-grandparents really wanted two nuns and a priest out of their three children,” he said. “My two great-aunts joined the convent with the Sisters of St. Joseph, but my grandfather had other plans.”
But sometimes, God multiplies when it looks like he is subtracting.
“Their first son, Arthur Robert Murphy V, seemed to fulfill my great-grandmother’s desire to have a priest in the family,” Father Murphy said. “It seems with patience to another generation, there will now be two.”
Father Murphy said he began to hear his call to the priesthood extremely early in his life, almost as soon as he entered grade school.
“I was an altar boy all during my grade school years and loved every minute of it,” he said. “We lived close enough to the church that I would get called often to serve funerals during the summer months or called out of class during the school day.”
Having the gregarious Msgr. Murphy, now the vicar general of the diocese in which the new Father Murphy will serve, in the family only made the call stronger and clearer even to a young boy.
“Having my uncle around made the priesthood even more real and present in my life,” he said.
On top of that, his family always welcomed priests into their home, no matter where that was.
“We moved around a little bit when I was growing up, and wherever we went, my mother would always make sure the parish priests felt welcome in coming over and just taking it easy,” he said.
“This provided more opportunities for me just to have priests around,” Father Murphy said. “I admired each one of these men and fortunately still keep in contact with many of them.”
Surrounded by priests and growing up in a strong Catholic family, for him, hearing the call, came as naturally as breathing.
“The priesthood was just a part of my life, so not only do I have these priests to thank, but also my parents for making the faith not just a part of our life but the very essence of it,” Father Murphy said.
It wasn’t like a little boy telling his mother than he wanted to be a major league pitcher or an astronaut when he grew up. She took him seriously, and told him to seek the advice of his uncle on their next visit to his then-parish, Our Lady of Guadalupe in St. Joseph.
That was a moment he will never forget, Father Murphy said.
“I was eight when I went for a walk with my uncle and officially told him that I wanted to be a priest,” he said. “His response to me was that if I did my part and prayed, the Lord would take care of the rest.”
But there was one problem.
“He was a priest of (the Diocese) of Kansas City-St. Joseph and we lived in St. Louis,” Father Murphy said. “I wanted to be a priest with him.”
So he prayed. And the Lord took care of it.
“The irony is that not only did we move back to Kansas City before I started high school, but the walk with my uncle took place by the river in downtown St. Joseph, and my first assignment after ordination to the diaconate was at Cathedral Parish only blocks from where that conversation took place,” he said.
His parents moved into St. Thomas More Parish, and the future Father Murphy enrolled at Rockhurst High School where he found even more help in discerning a call that was growing even stronger.
“I was never met with anything but full support from any of the faculty I encountered over my four years there,” Father Murphy said. “I enjoyed my high school years immensely and have found that friendships made there have turned into lifelong friendships.”
He knew what he had to do next.
“I decided to enter seminary right after high school to begin serious discernment without other distraction,” he said. “I had felt the call since I was a boy and I owed it to God to give him some time in the seminary.”
Father Murphy and his classmate Father Benjamin Kneib also hold a distinction together.
They are the last two seminarians accepted by Bishop Emeritus Raymond J. Boland in 2004, and began seminary together that fall, months before Bishop Boland’s retirement, at Conception Seminary College.
Once there and on his own for the first time in his life, questions began to crop up.
“I never had any real doubts,” Father Murphy said. “My only question in my vocation was more of a struggle adjusting to seminary life. This was really just a couple of months of being uneasy with this new life, but through the help of a senior from the Diocese of Tulsa, I realized that my call was to the priesthood, not the seminary. I unpacked for God and began my four years of study there.”
Through his seminary years, Father Murphy learned a Gospel lesson — he didn’t really choose to be a priest. God chose him. And once God calls, he doesn’t forget.
“Prayer and sacraments give me strength to take on this wonderful life of the priest,” Father Murphy said.
“Simplicity in life and priesthood is the overall goal,” he said. “We live this life to seek our own salvation and the priesthood adds the task of the salvation of souls that are placed in the priest’s pastoral care.”
Father Murphy said his ordination is just a beginning.
“My desire is to grow more and more to live the life of Christ and to be a man in the world, but not of the world,” he said.
And already knowing the fraternity of priests of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph who have served with his uncle for decades, Father Murphy said he is humbled to join them.
“I must always be able to rely on my brother priests for continued strength and perseverance,” Father Murphy said. “Priestly fraternity is essential in this day and age.”