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Remembering Michele Murphy, CSJ

 St. Paul Province

Michele Murphy, CSJ

March 28, 1930 – December 2, 2022

Michele Murphy, CSJ was a gracious friend, wonderful teacher, and a woman of deep faith. She was born Dorothy Ann, in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on March 28, 1930, to Michael and Luella (Hutton) Murphy, and died peacefully at Carondelet Village in St. Paul, on December 2, 2022.

Sister Michele entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1946 and in 1958 earned a B.A. in English and education from the College of St. Catherine, in St. Paul. Sister Michele was missioned to teach at many province schools including St. Patrick, St. Columba and Holy Spirit in St. Paul; St. Kevin and St. Charles Borromeo in Minneapolis; St. Raphael in Crystal; St. Michael in Grand Forks, North Dakota; St. Mary and St. Aloysius in Olivia; Holy Redeemer in Marshall; and John Ireland in St. Peter. Michele had a deep love for each of her students, and after 36 years of teaching, she longed to pass on the benefit of her experiences to those who followed her. In 1986 she founded Project One-Fifty, where she designed creative teaching materials to aid elementary, special education and home-schooling educators. She described this work as “teachers helping teachers,” and for 16 years Michele, along with other sister colleagues, would offer workshops and provide these materials to teachers all across Minnesota.

Those who knew Sister Michele will miss her generous heart and wonderfully dry sense of humor. She is preceded in death by her parents; sister Mary Zubrod; brother Frank Murphy and is survived by many nieces and nephews; grandnieces and nephews; dear friends; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 20, 2022, at 11:00 AM, in Our Lady of the Presentation Chapel, 1884 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul, with burial following at Resurrection Cemetery in Mendota Heights. Memorials preferred to the Sisters of St. Joseph Ministries Foundation.

Dear Sister Michele, rest in love and peace.

The following autobiography was written by Sister Michele

It was in the original St. Michael’s Hospital in Grand Forks, North Dakota, that Dorothy Ann, daughter of Mike Murphy and Luella Hutton Murphy, was born on March 28, 1930. She was the oldest child in a family of three, followed by her sister Mary, and in 1941 by her brother Francis.

As the firstborn child, Dorothy frequently played by herself, making up games or acting out “plays” about characters both real and imagined. Mary could be persuaded to play a part if the audience bought enough one-cent tickets. The most famous, in family history, of these productions was titled “A Hot Day Picking Onions.” Some critics, including Mary, have hinted that this play was too long and may have lacked depth of plot and character. However, local farm audiences always gave rave reviews, along with financial support, buying up all of the hand-printed penny tickets and clapping loudly for each encore. One summer, a tent was pitched in the spacious backyard near the gardens and a real outdoor stage was built by placing sturdy bridge planks across two sawhorses, thus setting the stage for endless hours of creativity.

Home visits from aunts, Sisters Catherine Elise, CSJ and Myra Louise, CSJ, provided more grounds for play-acting, as well as an introduction to the Sisters of St. Joseph. A third aunt, Sister Rose Clare joined the community in 1943.

Admiration of the sisters grew over the years of attendance at religion classes taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph from St. Mary’s School in Grand Forks. St. Timothy’s Church at Manvel was a mission church of St. Mary’s. The sisters rode with the priest each Sunday and so were present for the lengthy services: sonfessions, Mass, a long sermon and litanies and devotions after Mass, according to the season. Sometimes the blessing of the seeds, a baptism or blessing of religious articles followed. All of these farmers had done two or three hours of farm chores before coming to church, and anyone who wanted to receive Communion had been fasting since midnight.) After all this, the priest went off to meet with the trustees, and the sisters and school-age children gathered for an hour or so of class. The children’s hearts were enthralled by Sisters Consolata, St. Leo, Martha Louise and others.

After eight years at Manvel Public School, the parents of Dorothy and eight other girls, including Irene Olmstead who became Sister Ann Charlene, persuaded Mother Yvonne to reopen a boarding school at the Academy of St. James in Grand Forks. Sister Francis Anne Whisler was assigned the task of living with and perfecting the boarders.

Manvel had about 11 students or fewer in each class with one teacher for every two or three grades. Attending a much bigger school proved new and exciting. St. James actually had its own library! Books way above and beyond class assignments! Lots of new teachers! New friends! School parties! Invitations to “balls” and dances and sports events, as well as all the “youth” activities provided at both Grand Forks Catholic parishes. The whirl and novelty of all this unexpected fun made any childhood dreams about becoming a teacher and a sister grow dimmer until the day that Dorothy innocently joined a line of sisters waiting outside Mother Yvonne’s office. Every boarder knew that you must have permission to go out on a school night. Undaunted by the unusual number of sisters in line, Dorothy waited her turn, only to find a stranger in Mother Yvonne’s rocking chair. Mother Provincial Eucharista Galvin was holding an official visitation of the sisters. Taking this unusual interruption in stride, she leaned forward with a welcoming smile and asked Dorothy if she intended to be a sister. In words that seemed to be coming from another speaker, Dorothy heard herself say that yes, she intended to enter in February.

Actually, both she and Irene rode the train to the Twin Cities the next fall, arriving on September 8, 1946. On March 19, 1947, both were received into the novitiate. Dorothy was given the name Sister Michele.

Upon completion of novitiate training, Sister Michele was missioned to live at St. Agatha’s and begin full-time study at the Diocesan Teachers College.

Sister Michele’s first teaching assignment, St. Patrick’s in East St. Paul, began 36 years of classroom teaching, all but one of those in first grade. Saturdays and summer school were given to completing a B.A. from the College of St. Catherine. A keen interest in discovering how to make learning more exciting and fun for each individual in a group of young children led Sister Michele to graduate classes, workshops, reading and conversations exploring ideas for “individualized learning.”

Sister Aline Baumgartner, both as school supervisor and friend, gave much encouragement, inspiration and sound advice. She played such a part in the success of the personal reading program developed by Sisters Clare Bloms, Joan Mary Wadsworth and Michele at Marshall, Minnesota,
and later, the very successful Project One-Fifty, which Michele began in 1986 while living at St. Peter, Minnesota, that Aline became known as the “Grandmother” of Project One-Fifty.

This project was designed to help elementary, special education and home-schooling teachers make and use creative, hands-on practice materials. Seven full-time and many part-time sisters worked at Project One-Fifty. So named because 1986, the year of the project’s beginning, was the sesquicentennial, 150 years since the first Sisters of St. Joseph had come to America. Michele wished to honor all of the sisters and teachers who “came to the river” before us. Project One-Fifty closed 16 years later; however, the use of its materials carried on into the teaching of English as a second language by Sisters Joyce Peck and Judy Madigan.

On February 25, 2005, Sister Michele officially joined the Bethany Community. Through the process of these interviews and writings, Sister Michele began to realize that she had been connected to the Sisters of St. Joseph since birth. There is great contentment in being able to settle exactly where you belong.

Category: Obituaries

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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