sister rose mary murphey

Sister Mary Louis

May 10, 1931 - February 20, 2016

A generous woman with a smiling face and
sense of humor who cared deeply for others

On May 10, 1931, Samuel and Margaret (Barcroft) Murphey of St. Louis, Missouri, welcomed their daughter Rose Mary, the second oldest of five children born to them.  Her father was employed as a private duty nurse which is why Rose Mary’s early memories include spending afternoons in the park with her mother and siblings so the house would be quiet enough for dad to sleep.  She also remembered listening to her mother reading stories aloud, going to libraries … and “Jumping with trucks, climbing trees, [and] climbing telephone poles” with her older brother Jim.

Rose Mary attended Sherman and Mullanphy Elementary Schools.  When her father’s health became poor she assumed more responsibility for her three younger siblings.  Just short of her thirteenth birthday, her Dad died.  Her mother then had to work outside the home.   Rose Mary continued caring for the younger ones and did housework. 

At St. Margaret’s High School she met the Sisters of St. Joseph, one of whom she felt close to and loved to tease, Sister Walter Marie von Steiger.  After graduating from St. Margaret’s in 1949, she told her mother that she wanted to enter the Sisters of St. Joseph.  When her mother asked her to wait a year, she found employment as a clerk at what was then St. John’s Hospital.

September 15, 1950, she entered the Community, receiving the habit and the name Sister Mary Louis, March 19, 1951.  Her bachelor’s degree in psychology (1962) was from Fontbonne College.  Sister Mary Louis taught in St. Louis at Nativity of Our Lord (1953) and St. Roch (1961). In 1963 she taught at Holy Rosary (Kansas City, Missouri). Returning to St. Louis, she ministered at Holy Guardian Angels (1965) and St. Matthew (1966).  Then in 1970, she began fifteen years as a houseparent at St. Joseph Home for Boys – something she said she loved but in retrospect wondered if she had been too strict.

In 1985, Kansas City became her home again.  At St. Joseph Hospital/Health Center she was a medical records clerk – an enjoyable ministry that seemed to allow her more freedom to laugh and tease with co-workers than had been part of her previous experiences.  Sister Rose Mary returned to St. Louis in 1992 becoming a participant in Emmaus Community.   She was grateful to have the opportunity that the Emmaus experience provided, reflecting in her oral history:  “I[now] have tools to make my life work and be responsible for my own happiness.”  In 1994 she began the first of many years in a loving community with Sisters Mariann De Buck, Jeanne McGovern and Associate Pat McGovern.  She also spent a short time as a Medical Records Clerk at St. Louis University Doctors Office in St. Louis. 

Later that same year Sister Rose Mary became a receptionist at Nazareth Living Center.  Her duties, she said, were “to be kind, be friendly, talk with them, help them … and (before the days of door alarms), “keeping them from going out the door.”  Associate Lori Fick writes, “When I first started volunteering at Nazareth, in about 2002, S. Rose Mary was the receptionist for McGovern Manor.  I was working with a group of high school students with disabilities, and S. Rose Mary cared very much about those students.  She watched out for them….  S. Rose Mary's ever present smile lit up her face.” 

She became a hospitality associate at St. Joseph Motherhouse (2003) until she retired (2006), though she continued volunteer work.  In 2009 she moved to Nazareth Living Center ministering in prayer and presence.  Responding to Community need during the renovation there, she moved to Laclede Groves in 2015.

                                                                                                                                                           Helen Oates, CSJ

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