May They Rest in Peace: Sr. Mary Katherine Murphy, RSM

Sr. Mary Katherine Murphy, RSM, died peacefully on Oct. 4, 2020, in the presence of her dear friend, Sister Lois Burroughs, and the staff at The Neighborhoods of White Lake. 

Mary Katherine was born in Detroit to Dan and Mae (Henry) Murphy on March 8, 1930. Her loving parents gave their only child a firm foundation in Irish Catholic faith and were both honored and sad when she told them of her vocation to religious life when she was only 15. Nonetheless, they supported her, and she joined the Sisters of Mercy one-year later on Sept. 7, 1946. 

A memorial service took place at McAuley Center’s Sacred Heart Chapel on Friday, Oct. 16, followed by burial in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield.
Sr. Mary Katherine Murphy, RSM

Mary Katherine became a novice and received the name Sister Mary Brendan. She completed her high school education and was prepared for life as a Sister of Mercy. Further preparation and experience in the educational ministry brought her to profess her perpetual vows on Aug. 16, 1952.

Sister Mary Brendan taught primary grade children for 31 years in Berkley, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Ludington, Lansing, Manistee, and Hazel Park, Michigan. Those years included First Communion preparation as well as classroom instruction. During that time, she earned a master’s degree in reading at Cardinal Stritch College and attended numerous workshops to maintain and improve her teaching skills. In those post-Vatican II days, she also returned to her baptismal name. She loved her ministry but knew it was time for a “time-out” to reflect on possible new directions. 

A 1980 sabbatical year in Spokane proved to be a turning point for a ministry change, and she became part of the staff at St. Francis Parish in Traverse City. She spent the next thirty-four years there and was active in every aspect of parish life.   She truly enjoyed her work with the elderly, especially those who were poor or lonely. She managed a food and clothing service and helped direct the RCIA program for persons who wished to join the Catholic church. She also worked with young altar servers and made sure they understood their work, often attending all the weekend Masses to be sure they did. The St. Francis football team could count on her presence for every home game where she and her dog had their own special observation post.  

Katherine had no immediate family members, so the parish families were, in fact, her family. When she retired to McAuley Center in 2015, they did not forget her and continued their annual gifts of Traverse City cherries and apples every season. And they kept in contact with her by calling, sending cards, emails, and flowers, often stopping to see her when they came to the Detroit area.

There are many fond memories of Katherine. Sister Maureen Mulcrone noted, “Katherine had a great sense of humor and loved to celebrate her Irish heritage.” This was nurtured through several “pilgrimages,” which she led to Ireland that included her father’s hometown. Many Sisters recalled how she enjoyed traveling to new places for retreat or vacation. In her semi-retirement years, she found it possible to spend several winter months in Florida with friends. 

Her many years in Traverse City could have isolated her from the community as there were no other Sisters of Mercy there, but this was not the case. Sister Elizabeth Mary Burns, a novitiate class member, noted, “Katherine rarely missed a community meeting, and she maintained an active interest in current events She will be missed for her faithful attention to the task at hand, her devotion to prayer, and her warm welcoming of all who stopped to visit her during a long illness.

Funeral arrangements include a Memorial Service at McAuley Center’s Sacred Heart Chapel on Friday, October 16, followed by burial in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield.

To access Sister Mary Katherine's obituary and an online guestbook to leave condolences, click here.

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