Sister Patricia Murray, SNDdeN
(formerly Sister William Marie)
April 10, 1926- January 9, 2021
Although Donna McGargill’s Servant Song was copyrighted long after Pat Murray’s Entrance and profession in Notre Dame, it seems to capture what was in her heart back then: “What do you want of me, Lord? / Where do you want me to serve you? / Your Spirit stirs my deepest self. Sing your songs in me. / Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord, the way.”
By her own admission, Pat had hoped the strange “stirrings” at work in her “deepest self” were not really from the Spirit of God. Her warm, generous, loving heart was naturally attracted to the kind of married love and strong family life she had experienced growing up. Surely God had better candidates to call to religious life! But she came to believe that God had other plans. How “break the news” to her mother, she wondered: how say that she wanted (sort of!) to be a Sister? Pat needn’t have worried. To her astonishment, her mother had already read Pat’s heart.
Sixty years later, Pat reflected on her “happy and fruitful journey” in Notre Dame, with its “many grace-filled challenges” – “so many things I never imagined I could do or would have chosen to do,” she wrote. “God’s ways are not always our way. “ Her biodata reinforces how many things she would do, how many challenges she would tackle. Where did God want her to serve him? With characteristic faith and generosity, Pat took Notre Dame’s annual missioning process as her guide.
Her first mission was to teach 4th and 5th grades in Brooklyn: “I fell in love with New York and sadly left after only a 2-year stay.” Her transfer to teaching 5th grade in Washington (DC) was a relatively gentle transition. But next came a totally unexpected “bounce” -- from 5th grade in DC to senior high at Moylan (PA), teaching Latin (of all things!). And the bouncing had just begun! Over the next 21 years, Pat’s missions would take her first to West Catholic High (Philadelphia), to teach French and religion while earning credits in theology at Villanova University (1951-54); then to Academy of Notre Dame, K St. (DC), to teach typing and religion while pursuing courses in Spanish and theology at Trinity College (1954-56); next, back to West Catholic to teach Spanish (1956-61), before returning to K St. as school Principal and Local Superior (1961-67); then back to Moylan, to teach Spanish and be Prefect of Students (1967-69); and finally, to teach Spanish at St Maria Goretti (Philadelphia; 1969-72).
Pat touched countless young lives during those years. For everyone who came to know her—Sisters, colleagues, students of all ages—she was a living expression of our charism: “a woman filled with love for God and God’s people,” who had “committed her life completely God” and was spreading everywhere she went “the Gospel message that God is indeed good” (SND Constitutions, article 1). Jesus, her Lord, was indeed “singing his songs” through her!
Around 1968, however, Pat started sensing that God had something new in mind. On a MD Province personnel inventory, she registered a strong desire for catechetical work with children youth, and adults. Later forms show her wondering if her language skills might be put to better use than teaching Spanish to “uninterested students who take a language because they have to.” Maybe she could do more good teaching English to struggling Spanish-speaking people? Eventually, in 1972, she expressed a clear preference for adult education in a “Spanish apostolate,” possibly teaching ESL or typing, “wherever the need was greatest”—Philadelphia, Delaware, DC or New York.
It was a critical turning point that shaped her next two decades of active ministry. Fall of 1972 found her coordinating a Spanish program at St. Camillus Parochial School in Silver Spring, MD. Her two years there became a segue to 18 more at Our Lady of Monserrate Mission Chapel in a depressed area of Brooklyn (NY), where she served a largely Puerto Rican faith community. She began as Pastoral Assistant, but soon became Director of Religious Education. Pat had found her niche: using her language skills, theological grounding and educational experience to serve the needs of Puerto Rican children, youth and adults. She trained and supervised a full complement of lay catechists. She and Sr. Ann St. Francis became trusted members of the Monserrate community, sharing friendship and faith, sorrows and joys, in whatever circumstances parishioners found themselves. Together with Monserrate’s priests (“on loan” from Spain), Pat and Ann became part of a strong pastoral team. The people loved them, and the feeling was mutual.
Then, in 1992, came a wrenching “bounce”! Pat’s “eighteen years of loving this ministry and the people I served came to an end.” She was asked to coordinate an experimental community of active-retired SNDs at St . Rose of Lima in a different Brooklyn – far away in Baltimore – while also serving as the Maryland Province’s Coordinator of Notre Dame Associates. It was a hard transition that came close on the heels of an unexpected major surgery. But as always, Pat rose to the challenge!
She made the house a home –warm, welcoming, always open to visits from relatives, friends, area SNDs and Associates. She had a natural talent for celebration – especially at Christmas, when the neighborhood’s overdone but nonetheless famous decorations were on display. She also made sure the SNDs became part of St. Rose parish. As at Monserrate, encounters with parishioners before/after daily Mass blossomed into friendships, prayer partners and prospective associates. Pat’s golden jubilee in 1994 was a glorious parish event. By the time she left St. Rose, her famous list of “people to pray for” had grown by leaps and bounds. Everyone knew that when Pat Murray promised to pray for you, the commitment would last a lifetime!
The St. Rose experiment lasted for five and a half years. 1992 had been “a time to plant,” but “for everything, there is a season.” By 1997, the community had “outgrown” its original independent-living status. Sisters’ needs had changed. The house was closed, and once again, Pat found herself asking: “What do you want of me, Lord?” She was “delighted” to be invited to St. Ursula, Parkville (MD), to live and work with her good friend and former student at West Catholic, Sr. Joan Kelly.
Pat had much to offer. Through half a century she had acquired a remarkably diverse skill set for teaching and administration in academic and parish settings. She understood elementary and secondary education; she had taught religion, typing, art, Latin, French, Spanish, and ESL. She was a proven builder of Notre Dame community, a team player with laypeople and clergy alike, and a born mentor for Associates. All of this she brought to her 17 years at St. Ursula’s.
She helped introduce Spanish into the curriculum and worked in the school office. She served as the Maryland Province’s Director of Associates until 2007, and long after shedding the title, continued nurturing groups in Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and DC. She became a “pillar” of the parish. After Mass, people waited for her to say “hello,” share a piece of family news or a personal need, and ask for prayers. She did all she could to make the house she and Joan shared on the convent’s top floor a warm, inviting home that welcomed Sisters, Associates, priests, seminarians, and friends to come for meetings or a meal and share friendship, faith, and prayer.
Pat’s final years – first at Villa Julie and then at Mount Notre Dame – were spent the way she had lived her entire life. As her eyesight and hearing failed, she spent more and more time in prayer. To the very end, it was God’s Spirit that stirred her “deepest self.” She had long ago written her Lord a blank check:
“Jesus, Jesus, you are the Lord, you are the way. Sing your songs in me!”
Alleluia, Pat! Alleluia!!
Born April 10, 1926 – Philadelphia, PA
William J. Murray and Mary V. Joyce (Both of Philadelphia)
- Survived by Donald J. and Roger E. Murray
- Predeceased by: John, William, Marie, Julia, Margaret, Veronica and Genevieve (Sr. Jean, MM) Murray
- Entered Notre Dame August 13, 1944 (Ilchester, MD)
- First Profession: February 8, 1947
- Final Vows: July 30, 1952
- Our Lady of Holy Souls Parochial School, Philadelphia
- Little Flower High School, Philadelphia
- B.A., Trinity College, Washington, DC.(1956)
- M.A., Villanova University - French/Spanish (1962)
- Parochial-School Teaching
- Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, Brooklyn, NY (1947-49, grades 4 & 5)
- St. Francis Xavier, Washington, DC (1949-51, grade 5)
- St. Camillus, Silver Spring, MD (1972-74, Coordinator of Spanish Program)
- St. Ursula School, Baltimore MD (1997- 2007, Spanish, grades 1-2; clerical assistant. 2007–2014: Volunteer)
- Notre Dame HS, Moylan PA (1951, Latin & Art. 1967-69, Spanish, Prefect of Studies)
- West Catholic HS, Philadelphia (1951-54, Religion/French. 1956-61, Spanish)
- Academy of Notre Dame, K St., Washington DC (1954-56, typing & religion. 1961-67, Principal)
- St. Maria Goretti HS, Philadelphia PA (1969-72, Spanish)
Religious Education and Parish Ministry
- Monserrate, Brooklyn, NY (1974-92, Pastoral Assistant; Director of Religious Education)
Notre Dame Community Service
- Notre Dame, K St., Washington DC (1961-67, Local Superior)
- St. Rose of Lima, Brooklyn, MD (1992-97, Community Moderator)
- Member, Leadership Team, Maryland Province, Group A , 1985-87
- Coordinator, Notre Dame Associates, Maryland Province – 1992-2007; continuing assistance to Associates thereafter.
Ministry of Prayer
- Villa Julie – 2014 -15
- Mount Notre Dame – 2015 - 21
Prepared by Mary Ann Cook, SNDdeN