A New Pastor For St. Joseph's

by Fr. Paul Zilonka, C.P.

"My hope is that we will be a parish that tries to nourish the 'breadth of the human spirit' and that people will come for what we offer"

Smiling Fr. Bill Murphy, C.P. spoke with hope-filled conviction as he was installed as pastor at the Passionist parish of St. Joseph's Monastery in Baltimore, Maryland, on the weekend of March 18-19, 2000. He spoke with gentleness and calm. But be not deceived; he is no stranger to life's harsher realities.

Two and a half decades of preaching in churches and retreat houses, overseas missionary travel and parochial ministry in a wide variety of locations have given this native Baltimorean a profound understanding of the trials people face. He knows the streets of our own inner-city neighborhoods and has been tested by the muddy poverty of Honduran hillsides. In the past year, Fr. Bill unexpectedly had his fifteen minutes of fame on CNN News when his parish in Tarboro, North Carolina, assisted neighbors who were almost washed away by Hurricane Floyd.

Fr. Bill Murphy is a humble man, but he is not going to wait for something better to happen. An instigator in the good sense, he starts new things, moves them forward, and assesses their usefulness.

March 18-19, the weekend he was installed as pastor, was also the weekend of the annual feast of St. Joseph, the parish patron, the protector of the Holy Family, who showered his loving care on Mary and the infant Jesus. For more than 125 years the Passionists have pastored the people of this region with a dedication reminiscent of Joseph, the Protector of the Holy Family.

Installation of Fr BillBishop Gordon Bennett, S.J., the Urban Vicar for parishes within the city limits of Baltimore, read the official letter of appointment issued by Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, effective February 1, 2000. In his homily to several hundred parishioners, Bishop Bennett recalled that the Transfiguration of Jesus is a reminder of the future glory to which all of us are called. In the meantime, however, Jesus and the disciples had to make sacrifices. The Bishop did not spare us the pertinent application: What sacrifice is the Lord asking of us as parishioners?

Fr. Terence Kristofak, C.P., the Passionist Provincial (right), reminded the parishioners of the sacrifice which the Passionist Community was making in appointing a new pastor in Baltimore, when personnel needs were critical in many places. He urged the parishioners to lend their full support to the ministry of evangelization, especially by welcoming new members to the parish.

Like most urban parishes, "the Monastery parish", as St. Joseph's is affectionately known, enjoys the opportunity to foster Christian faith in a multicultural environment. Parishioners of European ancestry stand side by side with African-Americans, as well as with increasing numbers of Catholics from Asia, Central and South America .

Staff conversationFr. Bill has the able assistance of Mrs. Pat Skarupa, Pastoral Associate (center), Mrs. Gloria Rink, Director of Religious Education (right), a church council and other groups who help make St. Joseph's an active, warm community of worship and celebration of life. The parish has a women's drama group currently touring many parishes with their own production of "Women of the Bible" It also has activities for youth, a committed group of young men and women altar servers, several church choirs ranging from traditional music to Gospel, and a seniors' group with the enchanting name of "Prime Timers" The parish is vital, but Fr. Bill hopes for much more.

"The culture we live in offers what it offers, promising more than it ever comes up with; yet it doesn't fill the spiritual void inside us. Many people do not know the church. Many have turned off the church. St. Joseph's is like a lighthouse for people caught in conflicting currents. I hope it will signal life, and in the darkness light. I hope that our ministry will nourish the spirit. May our moments of grace as Passionists here give us an openness that invites the guiding hand of the Spirit to firmly push us where we are surprised to find ourselves, and sometimes where we would not choose to be."

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