AUGUST 2004: SISTER SHERREY MURPHY
As children, Sister Sherrey Murphy, O.S.F. and her four brothers and two sisters were encouraged to do their best, to be good persons and to be happy in whatever they chose to do. Sister Sherrey always dreamed of helping other people as a nurse.
Sherrey was born in Mitchell, South Dakota and grew up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. With five younger siblings in the home, she had a fair amount of responsibility in her family. She grew up loving children and at the same time learning to care for them.
Irish Family Heritage
Her parents were hard working, generous people and devout Catholics with a deep and simple faith. Family life and religious values were important in their home and the family shared a good Midwest work ethic. "Both of my parents were proud to say they were 100 percent Irish, and we grew up with equal pride of ancestry," she explained. "As our neighbors used to say, 'You have the map of Ireland on your faces'," she recalled.
She attended St. Joseph’s Cathedral Grade and High Schools where she was educated by the Dominican Sisters. "We lived close enough that we could walk to school and come home for lunch since a cafeteria did not exist at that time," she said. During high school, she enjoyed Literature and English classes and working on the school newspaper-- for a time, she even entertained the thought of becoming a writer. However, when the school started a Future Nurses Club, she began to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse.
After high school, she studied nursing with the Sisters of Mercy at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Sioux City, Iowa. She recalled how in the early months away at school she was very shy and terribly homesick and that her new friends soon learned of her gift of tears.
Life as a Nurse and a Sister
While she was studying to be a nurse, the school held a retreat. Although she often thought she might become a Sister, she never mentioned it to anyone. "During the retreat, I talked with the priest and he encouraged me to continue to pray and seriously consider a call to religious life," Sister Sherrey said. "I remember telling him that if I became a Sister, I still wanted to be a nurse and enter a Community where the Sisters really took care of the patients," she added. (She later learned that the priest’s congregation had one of their priests serve as Chaplain at St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, WI.)
God was also working in other ways regarding Sherrey’s calling. "Unknown to me at the time, one of my nursing classmates was also considering religious life," she stated. During the retreat, they discovered their mutual interest and following the retreat agreed to keep their plans secret. Meanwhile, they wrote letters to several convents and exchanged information with each other. "My classmate decided to visit the Motherhouse in Springfield, IL but I was reluctant to go with her," Sister Sherrey said. A few months later, her classmate entered the Community.
About the same time, she spoke with her mother and father about her interest in entering the convent. While they were encouraging to her, she remembers the conversation: "My father said ever-so-gently, 'We would never stand in your way, but you only have one more year of study before you finish your nursing. What if you find you are not happy in the convent and wish to come home? Maybe you could think about finishing school first'." Her father’s wisdom left an impression on her heart, and soon after, she graduated from nursing school.
"I loved working as a nurse and could not imagine a better career," she remembered. After completing the State Board Exam for Nursing, she worked for two years as a clinical instructor in the School of Nursing, and it was during this time that she made the decision to answer God’s call and enter religious life.
Her classmate, now a novice with the Hospital Sisters, invited Sherrey to come to the Motherhouse for a weekend visit. "I still recall the powerful feeling of 'coming home' I experienced during that visit," she said. When she returned home she began the application process and entered the Community on September 5, 1965.
Listening to God’s Call
Though she first thought that she would enter a nursing community of Sisters and spend her life serving as a nurse, "The Lord and the Community often had other ideas," she stated. During the second year of the Novitiate, she began studying at Marillac College in St. Louis, MO earning a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. Her first assignment as a young Sister was to St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay, WI, in the Neurosurgical Department. A variety of assignments followed, including participation in Formation work, serving at St. John's Hospital as a staff nurse, a department supervisor, and in Nursing Administration. Sr. Sherrey fondly recalls the experience of working with the Sisters as the Motherhouse Superior as she "experienced the goodness and holiness of our Sisters and witnessed their courage and graceful surrender as age and illness approached." During this time, she continued her studies in the summer sessions at the University of Notre Dame and earned a Masters Degree in Administration. Sr. Sherrey later served in Administration at St. Mary's Hospital, Decatur.
In 1993-94, she served as a member of the General Chapter Preparation Committee in Münster, Germany. For Sister Sherrey it was "an awakening experience of the cultural diversity of our international Community." In 1994 she attended the General Chapter as a guest. "I remember thinking as we prepared to leave for the Chapter that six weeks was a long time to be gone from a job," she said. "No one was more surprised that I was when I was elected to serve a six-year term as a General Councilor.
"I have visited our Sisters in all the Provinces and the Region of India, and have been personally enriched by the Sisters and by the cultural experiences," she commented. "The encouragement of each Sister to develop her potential and use her gifts has changed and expanded our roles in ministry in the Church," she said. "I sense a growing desire within many of our Sisters to develop a contemplative life style, and this is experienced as a return to our Franciscan tradition," she added.
"I am grateful for the Lord’s abiding presence throughout my religious life," she said. "It has been an amazing journey from a small town in the Midwest to this bustling city in Germany; what the future holds is a mystery, but certainly one can expect to be surprised by joy," she concluded.