Born: 20 August 1862, Rathmore, County Kerry
Entered: 02 February 1882, Milltown Park, Dublin
Ordained: 01 August 1897
Final Vows: 02 February 1899, Coláiste Iognáid, Galway
Died: 20 February 1943, St Beuno’s, St Asaph, Wales
Came to Australia 1889 for Regency
by 1898 at Drongen Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship
by 1902 at St Aloysius, Galle, Sri Lanka Mission (BELG) teaching at Seminary
by 1923 at St Wilfred’s Preston England (ANG) working
by 1943 at St Beuno’s, St Asaph, Wales (ANG) health
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
A highly intelligent and interesting man, Denis Murphy began his career in the Society in 1882, and after initial Jesuit studies arrived at Riverview for regency in December 1888. He taught the public exam classes in Latin, Greek, French and mathematics, and was an assistant prefect of discipline until 1893. In the years 1893-94 he taught the lower classes at St Patrick's College before returning to Ireland for theology After tertianship he spent time in Ceylon and England.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 10th Year No 3 1935
Works by Father Denis J Murphy SJ :
- “English Idioms and Pronunciation” - Written for Indian students of English. It gives in parallel columns incorrect and correct English idioms. A pamphlet of 25 pages, very helpful for schools in India
- “Current Errors in English History” - Two booklets, of about 100 pages each, give true history of important events according to best historians, and show how false is the Protestant version.
Irish Province News 18th Year No 2 1943
Father Denis Murphy SJ (1862-1943)
Fr. Murphy's death occurred at St. Beuno's College, St. Asaph, North Wales, on the morning of 20th February. After spending some time in a Preston Nursing Home he had been transferred to St. Beuno's last summer and, the' unable to offer Mass since 2nd June, he kept up his former interests and maintained contact with Preston, the scene of his labours for the twenty years previous to his death, as well as with the Province. On the very morning of his death Fr. Socius received a letter from the Brother who was looking after him, reporting Fr Murphy's anxiety to give full information of the Masses he had been saying up to his illness and mentioning that he still retains his buoyancy and good spirits and begs to be kindly remembered to the Provincial and the community at Gardiner Street.
Born at Rathmore, Co. Kerry, in 1862, he entered the Society at Milltown Park, Dublin, on February 2nd, 1862, and spent five years as master in Melbourne before pursuing his theological studies. He was ordained priest by the late Most Rev. Dr. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1897, and after occupying the post of Prefect of Studies at St. Ignatius' College, Galway, for three years, volunteered for school work in Galle, Ceylon, then under the care of the Belgian Jesuits. Monsignor Van Reeth, S.J., Bishop of Galle, had come to Europe in 1901 in search of a Head for his recently established school for native boys. Father Murphy offered himself for the position. Under his tactful and talented management; the college, from being a collection of mere floorless huts, where boys were taught the elements of the three Rs, became a secondary school of distinction, St. Aloysius College, where pupils were prepared for the Senior School Certificate of Cambridge. After twenty years of unbroken service in the tropics Father Murphy was compelled through ill-health to return to Ireland in 1922. In the autumn of that year began his twenty years' association with the parish of St. Walburge's of Preston, where his priestly zeal and remarkable gentleness of disposition won him all hearts. The diamond jubilee of his entrance into religion was made the occasion last February, of remarkable popular rejoicings in Lancashire.
Fr. John Delaney has kindly set down the following details of Fr Murphy's work in Ceylon : “On his way home to Ireland from Australia for his theology, Mr Murphy's boat called at Colombo. While on shore he visited the Irish Oblate father who was then Parish Priest at St. Philip Neri’s the Garrison Church of the town. Chatting about Mission work on the Island, the Oblate father impressed so much on Mr. Murphy's mind the crying need of English speaking missionaries in such a place that he determined to apply to his Superiors for permission to return as a priest and work in Ceylon. He was strengthened all the more in his desire, as he found that the Society had two dioceses Galle in the South and Trincomali in the East of the Island, as well as the papal Seminary in the Hill Capital, Kandy, where the future clergy of India and Ceylon were being formed by the Jesuit Fathers.
During his tertianship he offered himself to the Provincial for Mission work in Ceylon, His generous offer was accepted, though Fr. Murphy heard no more about it for some time. On his return to Ireland he was appointed to Galway and asked to work up the school there. Many there are to-day who still remember and speak with admiration of the untiring zeal and the fine spirit of work he showed at St. Ignatius.
While Fr. Murphy was working in Galway the Belgian Jesuit Bishop, Dr. Joseph Van Reeth, who was in charge of the Galle Diocese Ceylon, came to Rome on his ad limina visit. While touring Europe in quest of subjects who would help him to found and work up a College in his diocese - a project very dear to his heart - he applied to the Irish Provincial, who remembering the Tertian's generous offer, placed the Bishop's request before him. Fr. Murphy packed up and set sail for the East, accompanied by as German Scholastic, who had joined the English Province for Mission work. That was in 1901. His work was to continue till 1921.
Fr. Murphy's activities in Ceylon can be placed under two heads : (1) the educational, or (2) the directly spiritual :
Arriving in Galle and taking charge of the Boys' School that had a roll of 82 pupils, he commenced his solid, persevering, self-sacrificing work that was to culminate in the great St. Aloysius' College of to-day - a fully equipped Secondary School with Elementary and Commercial Branches complete, side by side with an up-to-date Scientific Department containing a magnificent Laboratory that is regarded as one of the best in the Island.
Getting down to the very rudiments, Fr. Murphy began to lay the solid foundation of a thorough grasp of the English tongue for which the pupils of St. Aloysius' College became so renowned in later years. Parsing, analysis, rich vocabulary and correct idiom he hammered at continuously in season and out of season. People saw the wisdom of his plan and he himself was greatly encouraged when at the end of the first year he succeeded in getting his two Candidates through the Senior Local Cambridge Examination.
Then, he set about training his own pupils, first as monitors then as teachers, some of whom he sent to the Training College, gradually staffing the school with his own past pupils. During his regime he succeeded in capturing twice the much-coveted Government scholarship offered in open competition to all the Colleges of the Island. Before he returned to Ireland he had the satisfaction of seeing over 500 boys housed in a magnificent set of buildings the new St. Aloysius College-designed and completed on really oriental lines. His remarkable spirit of work had a contagious quality, too. His Old Boys testify even, to-day to that, and assert that with his great slogan "Certa Viriliter" emblazoned on the College Coat of Arms as their motto. Fr. Murphy really infused a genuine spirit of work into their lives. His directly spiritual work was equally successful. Starting off with a highly intensified spiritual life himself and remarkable for his spirit of prayer, love of poverty, penitential practises - rarely did he sleep on a bed - he gathered around him souls whose great desire was to be disciples of The Master. He was loved by the children for the wondrous charm of his simplicity. Converts reverenced him as their father. Children of Mary in the Convent and the College were anxious to place themselves under his spiritual direction. Members of religious congregations, many of whom hailed from Ireland, drew inspiration for their lives from his word and his example. His kindness, gentleness and discernment, his Christlike demeanour were an unfailing attraction for all.
For many years he crossed over regularly to Madras for the Annual Retreat of the Irish Presentation Nuns. Their first Convent in Madras was an offshoot of Rahan near Tullabeg. The former Rahan Parish Priest was a brother of the late Archbishop of Madras. These were the links between the two communities. From humble beginnings these Irish Presentation Nuns gradually developed their influence till to-day they are a power in the land through their schools, convents and colleges including the famous Training College of Madras, where the foundations of Catholic education of South China are so well laid.
The secret of Fr. Murphy's success lay in those supernatural qualities which his late Jesuit Superior in Galle discerned when he spoke of him as “a genuine religious and a very saintly man”. The same encomium as was paid twenty years after, when a late Provincial of England alluded to him as “the saint of St. Walburge's” R.I.P.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Denis Murphy SJ 1862-1943
On his way home from Australia, Mr Denis Murphy – as he was then called – called in at Colombo, and was much struck by the lack of priests there. He volunteered for the Mission of Ceylon. His offer was accepted in 1900 on the appeal of the Bishop of Galle for a man to run his recently established school for native boys. Under his management, the school, from being a mere collection of floorless huts became a secondary school of distinction, the present College of St Aloysius. For twenty years Fr Murphy worked in Ceylon.
Then through ill health he returned to Ireland, and he worked for another twenty years on the English Mission at Preston. He celebrated his Diamond Jubilee as a Jesuit in 1942, having been born at Rathmore in Kerry in 1862.
He died at St Beuno’s on February 20th 1943, leaving behind a permanent monument to his zeal in the College of St Aloysius, Ceylon.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1902
Letters from Our Past
Father Denis Murphy SJ
A Jesuit. Father. well known to many .. of our students, and one who takes a great interest in the apostolic school, writes from Galle, Ceylon :
“Some six years ago this diocese had only six Catholic schools. Now there are thirty-six, each & source of numerous conversions and fonning the nucleus of a Chris tian community. The total number of children now attending the Catholic schools is about 2,500; six years ago it did not exceed 700,
We have, however, numerous difficulties to contend against. The Buddhists are encouraged and organised by European spiritualists, like Colonel Alcot and Miss Besant. Then there is the bitter opposition and bigotry of the. Protestants, who have plenty of money and have been in the field a hundred years before us. The Catholics are: poor, and find it difficult to support the priests or teachers. Above all, the workers are too few. Imagine thirty-six schools and forty-two churches and chapels, many of them thirty or sixty miles apart, worked by some eight priests ! Thus it happens that Catholic teachers and children are often months without seeing a priest. And it occurs again and again that schools decay and Catholics 'turn Protestant and Buddhist owing to the want of a priest to look after them.
But wherever a priest is the school fourishes and conversions multiply. Down at Matura, five years ago, there were two flourishing Wesleyan schools. Rev. Fr Standaert SJ, then opened his school of two boys in the church verandah, Now Fr. Standaert's school numbers one hundred and fifty children ; of the Wesleyan schools, one is fast dying, the other already dead.
The climate though hot, is wholesoine and invigorating, sea or land breezes nearly always blow; while our diet, dress, and houses are well adapted to a tropical climate. Hence, I feel the heat less than during an Australian summer”.
The same writer says in another letter :
“The Catholics, having endured a terrible persecution under Dutch Calvinists for 150 years up to the year 1800, are now fast multiplying. Their number at present is about a quarter of a million ; Trotestants are 60,000; the rest, Some 3,000,000, are Buddhists and Mohammedans. This (locese has over 7.coo Catholics scattered over an area as Targe as Munster. Two hundred converts are made yearly. In this diocese we have only twelve priests and need help Dadly. The Singhalese are a gentle loveable race, pos sessing an eastern refinement. Their modesty and humility seem to fit them admirably for the reception of Christianity. Here in Galle a higher Catholic school is sorely needed to keep our boys from Buddhist and Protestant schools. We teach from the alphabet to Senior Cambridge.
Some 'twelve months ago this (St Aloysius), school had a little over one hundred pupils, there are now over two hundred. About half are Catholics, the rest are Buddhists, Mohainmedans and Protestants. Gentle, good, ainiable boys they are. We are getting converts amongst them. About a dozen are now preparing for baptism. The scenery of Ceylon is beautiful, especially around old Kandy, the hill city of the kings, which I visited lately”.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1904
Letters from Our Past
Father Denis Murphy SJ
“I was very glad to hear that you hope to be able soon to send help to Galle. The need is great, and the harvest is ripe. English-speaking priests are sorely needed in Ceylon and India. First, as English teachers in colleges. Second, as Preachers in churches Thirdly, because Continental priests don't well understand British character, ideas and methods, which of course permeate British Colonies. This is certainly an agreeable mission, with. many thousaud Pagans awaiting the light. Caste males no difficulty here; but is a terrible barrier in India, I am sorry I cannot write more, as I hear this eve ping the Singhalese chart of the Via Crucis in the native tongue, while our pious congregation, in many-coloured native costumes, gather in. Still we are only one in thirty-five of the population of Galle. There is great room for conversions. So pray for me with my littie Catholics and non-Catholics.
NOTE - Though Father Murphy is not a Past Student, we think his letter will interest many of our readers, es pecially those who remember him in Galway.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1905
Letters from Our Past
Father Denis Murphy SJ
A great friend of the Apostolic School, now a missioner in Ceylon, writes from St Aloysius College, Gaile
My dusky lads admire the Mungret photos and would like to be in such a grand college. In Ceylon, though the Protestants have built many fine Colleges, the Catholics have only one large College building - St Joseph's, Colombo, but we hope to have a fine college built in Galle very soon.
Of my 240 boys about half are Buddhists and Mohammedans, good little fellows, with the natural law writ clear and deep. Few leave us without Catholic principles and a desire to embrace the true faith, but parents oppose, and helpless boys must prudently yield now; later on we hope they will follow their convictions. We must rely for converts chiefly on the young, the old Buddhists being too corrupt in heart and mind.
Our rival colleges here are the Anglican, the Wesleyan with some 400 pupils, and the Buddhist College supported hy English Theosophists. The latter college was fast dying last year and nearly all its pupils were leaving for St Aloysius' College; but Colonel Olcott came, bought up a large building, bronght out a Cambridge MA, and now that Buddhist institution flourishes.
It is difficult to exaggerate the need of English-speaking priests in India and Ceylon. English education is now spreading rapidly. Every bishop has a college in his diocese and naturally requires as teachers those whose mother tongue is English. Amongst Europeans here, too, there is great need of priests of their own nationality,
So you see there is a splendid field of labour open to Mungret in these lands.
The bishop of Kandy and a Singhalese priest are just giving a mission here. The dialogues, in which the private lakes the rôle of a Buddhist or Protestant asking for information from the bishop, are very interesting and instructive for the people. The bishop, an Italian, learned this plan from the Jesuits in Rome,
The same writer, in another place, sends the following most interesting items :
The people of this country, until some three months since, were cursed by drunkenness, leading to countless murders. But a temperance movement, like Father Matthew's, has spread through the island in an extraordinary manner, and already public houses and law courts are empty; publicans and lawyers are in poverty. For a Buddhist people it is marvellous. They have watchers near every public house, and pledge-breakers are boy. cotted and macle to take on their backs stones or baskets of sand to the Buddhist temples.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1908
Letters from Our Past
Father Denis Murphy SJ
Ceylon - Rev D Murphy., writes from Galle:
We need English), or still better, Irish, aid very badly here, especially for college work. We have now a nice college of some 300 dusky lads and my poor self the only Paddy! We have white boys, chiefly of Dutch descent, called Burghers, and yellow boys - Singhalese and Portuguese - with many black boys of Tamil blood, The latter are industrious when made to be, and by nature very. gentle and obedient.
The Eastern memory is very good. The mind is acute but lacks reasoning power. All these qualities of mind and character are improving under European education.
Lying and theft seem a second nature to young and old here - quite shocking at first. But our boys quickly learn that “honesty is the best policy” in word and deed; so I find them now truthful and honest when they find both esteemed and rewarded; while the opposite bring punishment and disgrace. Amongst my 300 boys I have not had for many months a complaint of loss of books (stolen), which was quite a plague formerly. Our Catholic boys have much piety.
At games we do well. The college holds the champion ship for foothall over the Buddhist, Anglican, and Wesleyan colleges - past and present. The Aloysian club holds the foolball championship of Galle: Aided by four old boys the college played an excellent team of eleven English officers and men from HMS Sealark; and after a hard hour's game the match ended in a draw; and our English opponents acknowledged that Ceylon boys can play a splendid game. Of course all this makes our lads proud of their college, and fosters esprit de corps. The evenings are quite cool enough for Association; but Rugby cannot flourish in the tropics.
An English theosophist bas revived the Buddhist College here in Galle, which was almost dead four years since, having sent nearly all its pupils to us. Our boys though Buddhist grow with Catholic ideas and principles, If we could only gain the parents' permission many would become Catholics. We must wait and pray, con tent with those we do gain.
I like Ceylon climate better than Ireland's. We have no winter, nor is the heat too great; a fresh land or sea breeze constantly blows.
I hope some more will come to us from Mungret. The Easi has greatest need of English speakers.
◆ The Mungret Annual, 1909
Letters from Our Past
Father Denis Murphy SJ
Ceylon - Rev D Murphy., writes from Galle:
Very glad missionary thoughts are turning Eastward, especially to India and Ceylon where English speakers are very badly needed. We must help in English countries French and Belgians, who want our aid in a most special way for education and English preaching English Protestant Missionaries swarm over Ceylon and India, but alas ! how few Catholic. May God send us some priests and nuns froin Ireland! I gave two retreats last Xmas in Madras to two large convents of Irish nuns, over thirty in each. Without them the various bible societies with Protestant Englislı nuns in abundance would have nearly all female education in their hands. South of Madras there is not one English speaking nun in India. Very sad !
We are more fortunate in Ceylon. We have the Good Shepherul Sisters from Ireland in Colombo and Kandy, and here in Galle we have a large convent of Belgian and Irish, with threë natiye sisters, all doing excellent work and famous for their Limerick lace. A beautiful convent by the sea bas been established at Matara, twenty seven miles from Galle.
Mr Piler is coming to us next month. You cannot imagine what a change one scholastic makes here or how much good he can du, surrounded and hard pressed as we are by Buddhists and Protestants. We have nine native teachers and a school of 300 fine lads, gentle, obedient; and industrious ; but only halt are Catholics We teach from alphabet to senior Cambridge and soon to London matriculation.
◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959
Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Commnnity
Father Denis Murphy (1862-1943)
Born at Rathmore, Co. Kerry, entered the Society in 1882 and was ordained in 1897 at Milltown Park. He had spent his regency at Australia before his theological studies. After his ordination he was appointed prefect of studies at St Ignatius', Galway and discharged the duties of his office with marked success for three years. He then volunteered for work with the Belgian Jesuits in Ceylon and for twenty years did splendid work in building up the College of St Aloysius at Galle. He was forced by ill-health to return to Europe in 1921 and was appointed to Sacred Heart College. Here he was engaged in teaching as well as being a member of the church staff. At the end of the year, however, feeling called to do mission work in England, he was sent at his own request to the Jesuit church at Preston where he laboured to the end. He remained a member of the Irish Province, although he had spent only four years of his long life in the actual work of his Province.