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Msgr. Jeremiah Timothy Murphy, priest for more than 50 years, dies at 79

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Msgr. Jeremiah Timothy Murphy, a faithful servant of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles known for his love for the priesthood, rigorous intellectual life and unfailing work as a parish priest despite being confined to a wheelchair, died on March 1 surrounded by family and friends. He was 79 years old.

Msgr. Murphy is remembered for his dry sense of humor that could lighten the mood if a tense moment arose during meetings while serving for more than 50 years as a priest for the archdiocese.

A die-hard Notre Dame fan, Msgr. Murphy was also an athlete before a debilitating illness left him a quadriplegic. He played football, basketball and baseball while in the seminary, and while a priest would often enjoy a game of basketball with fellow members of the clergy.

Msgr. Murphy also loved to garden on the rectory and school grounds where he was stationed, and enjoyed hiking and spending time with friends and family.

Msgr. Gregory Cox, director of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, remembers Msgr. Murphy for his loyal friendship that spanned more than 40 years. The two would often meet for lunch or dinner to discuss sports, Church matters and politics. 

About 10 years ago, Msgr. Cox recalled his friend saying over lunch that there was a chance he could have a terminal illness. Msgr. Murphy refrained from dwelling on the challenges he faced due to his illness, and instead focused on ways he could serve, Msgr. Cox said.

Forgoing retirement, Msgr. Murphy continued to serve beyond the priesthood’s customary retirement age of 75. He served as pastor at St. Victor Church in West Hollywood, where he graciously accepted daily help to elevate the Eucharist during Consecration. He served at the parish for more than 10 years.

“He was very courageous, but not in his estimation,” Msgr. Cox said. When presented with a challenge, his attitude was, “How do I take this and make something good out of it?”

As St. Victor’s pastor, Msgr. Murphy kept the parish vibrant with many initiatives. One of his many successful programs included the launch of the church’s new preschool, which brought West Hollywood families to St. Victor’s. He was also deeply committed to the continued education of his flock, instituting many thought-provoking speaker series, and began weekly meditation hours and nightly eucharistic adoration.

Msgr. Cox said his friend was “born to be a priest,” adding, “He just enjoyed the priesthood, and he enjoyed what the priesthood could bring to people.”

Although Msgr. Murphy didn’t advertise his spirituality, according to Msgr. Cox he had a great devotion to Mary, prayed the rosary and did a great deal of spiritual reading. A friendship with a man like this, he said, meant the two could “go deep” on many issues, from philosophical and theological to personal matters.

A native of Los Angeles, Msgr. Murphy was ordained from St. John’s Seminary at the Cathedral of St. Vibiana in Los Angeles in 1963. He initially taught high school before becoming the principal at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente. In 1978, he was named a monsignor and later served as secretariat director for the Los Angeles Archdiocese from 1986 to 1991.

Msgr. Cox said of his friend, “You always had someone in your corner, through thick and through thin. When the good Lord [took] him — he’s still in your corner in another way — I just miss that presence.”

Msgr. Murphy is survived by his sister Kathleen Justice Murphy and his brother Patrick (Connie) Murphy, as well as his nieces and nephews Kevin Muno, Mike Muno, Therese Hernandez, Maureen Hensley, Larry Muno and Patrick Murphy. Msgr. Murphy was preceded in death by his beloved parents Patrick and Marie Murphy and his brother Michael Murphy.

The funeral Mass took place March 15 at St. Victor Church.

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