By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Neither Father John R. Burke, pastor of Good Shepherd Church, nor his younger sister Marty Murphy, a teacher who recently retired from Holy Spirit School, were surprised that they each chose to live a life of service to the church.
Father Burke will retire this month after 45 years as a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville. Murphy wrapped up 45 years as a Catholic school teacher at the end of May.
Looking back over more than four decades, both agree that the paths they chose required many sacrifices and a lot of faith in God.
Murphy, a single parent, juggled her career as a teacher while raising four children, including a son born with Down syndrome, she said.
Despite not having a high-paying career, she wanted her children to have the benefit of a Catholic education. Her solution was to work hard and pray, she said.
Murphy taught for three years at St. Edward School and 42 at Holy Spirit, where she taught first-grade for 38 years and the remainder as a third-
grade math and science teacher.
She supplemented her teacher’s salary by working two part time jobs — a paper route she worked for 19 years and at a retail store where she worked for 13 years. She retired from part-time employment just three years ago.
“I put it all in God’s hands,” she said simply of her success. She feels “lucky” to have the kind of faith that allowed her to “just know” God was on her side and that he’d help her, she said.
Father Burke said he’s very proud of the life his sister has lived.
“My claim to fame is: I’m Marty Murphy’s brother. She’s great,” he said, looking across the table at her, a twinkle in his eye.
Reminiscing about their childhood, Father Burke said it was only fitting that Murphy became a school teacher.
Growing up, she was the one “in charge,” he recalled. When their mother was ill, Murphy took care of him and their other three siblings, he said.
“She’s a natural. It’s fun to see her with her kids (in the classroom),” said Father Burke.
Murphy said she’s just as proud of her big brother.
Father Burke’s decision to become a priest was “an answer” to their grandparents’ prayers, she said. Father Burke and his sister recalled laughing about how their grandparents used to say he’d be the “first Irish -American pope.”
So the family wasn’t too surprised when, upon graduating from eighth-grade, he turned down a scholarship to Trinity High School to enter the seminary, she said.
Father Burke said his vocation as a priest has been “a real honor.”
He was ordained in 1972. His first assignment was at Holy Spirit Church as associate pastor. Between 1975 and 1982, Father Burke served as associate pastor of Sts. Simon and Jude Church, St. Mildred Church in Somerset, Ky., and St. Peter Mission in Monticello, Ky. He was pastor of St. Peter Church in Monticello and Good Shepherd Chapel in Whitley City, Ky., (now part of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky.) over the following four years.
Father Burke served as pastor of St. Denis and Christ the King churches between 1986 and 2004. He was pastor of St. Cecilia Church and the Church of Our Lady in 2009 when these parishes merged with St. Anthony Church to become Good Shepherd Church, where he will remain as pastor until June 21.
In 1993 he served as presbyteral moderator of St. Martin de Porres Church. He also serves as sacramental moderator of St. William Church, a role he will continue to fill.
The merger and creation of Good Shepherd was a difficult period, said Father Burke, but overall he loved his work as a priest and ministering in the West End, where he has served for 25 years.
“I love parish ministry and being with people during sacred times,” he said. He also “found joy in prison ministry,” which he’s done for the past 20 years at Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in Oldham County, he said.
Father Burke plans to keep ministering to prisoners during his retirement.
In her retirement, Murphy said she’s looking forward to visiting national parks, spending time with her grandchildren, riding her bike and gardening. She also plans to keep volunteering at St. John Center for Homeless Men, something she’s done for the past 15 years.
Both agree that it was their upbringing and “wonderful” family values that influenced them to live a life of service.
“We had a mom and dad who were very in tune to teaching us right from wrong,” said Murphy. She recalled how the family always walked to Holy Spirit Church together to attend Mass and prayed the rosary together.
Father Burke said their father always encouraged him to serve others. Murphy said all the Burke siblings are servant-hearted. Sometimes, she said, they’ll say to each other, “ ‘Mom and dad would be proud of you.’ ”
The siblings agree that to live a life of service to the church one must first find his or her “true passion” and be dedicated. Next, they said, trusting in God, trusting in others and trusting oneself are important to a life of service. Both said they’ve come across “wonderful” people in their work who have “blessed” them.