Ireland House Oral History Collection

Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.

Created/Published:

9 November 2007

2 hours, 47 minutes

Preferred Citation:

Ireland House Oral History Collection, Archives of Irish America, New York University

Biographical Note:

Regina Murphy (b. 1939), a Sister of Charity, is the daughter of Thomas Paul Murphy, an immigrant from Co. Mayo, Ireland, and Katherine Murphy, from Co. Galway. Her father began working in New York City in James Butler’s groceries and eventually owned and operated his own store. She has one older brother, Tommy, who entered religious life as a brother but left before taking his vows and married the “girl next door.”

Educated at St. Margaret of Cortona School in Riverdale and Sacred Heart of Mary High School, Regina Murphy went to Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY, for two years before deciding to enter the Sisters of Charity in 1959.(1) She finished her education at the College of Mount St. Vincent, then obtained graduate degrees from St. Louis University and Fordham University.

Sr. Regina started missionary work in the Bahamas in 1969, the same year she took her final vows. Her work there was in education but her observation of the stark contrast in living standards between the island natives and visiting tourists drove her towards peace and justice work. Eventually she became the Mission Coordinator for the Sisters of Charity. In this position Sr. Regina visited her peers in Guatemala where the sisters were involved in water projects and organizing social service networks.

Vatican II changed the religious life of Catholics around the world. For Sr. Regina, it marked the beginning of a change in the way the Catholic Church perceived social problems and injustice. Rather than simply taking care of day-to-day needs of the underprivileged, she felt that Vatican II placed greater emphasis on the social infrastructure, addressing what needed to be changed systemically to achieve a better quality of life for all members of society. As a result she focused her energy as an advocate for corporate responsibility. Sr. Regina worked for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility,(2) a local coalition of New York-based religious orders with investments in many companies. She also fought hard to establish the McBride Principles.(3) Although inspired by labor discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland, the McBride Principles are written as a universal guide for preventing discrimination of any kind in the work place. In 1988 they were instrumental to the implementation of the Fair Employment Act in Northern Ireland.

At the time of this interview, Sr. Regina Murphy was the property manager for the Sisters of Charity, overseeing both the maintenance of buildings and construction projects for the order.

Click on image to enlarge.

Interviewers:

Photo Credit:

  1. Regina Murphy, high school graduation portrait by the White Studio, West 58th Street, New York City, June 1957. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  2. Tommy Murphy (center) with his parents Thomas and Katherine Murphy on his graduation from Iona College, 1957. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  3. Sr. Regina Murphy, early 1960s. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  4. Sr. Regina Murphy, Bahamas, circa 1968-1972. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  5. Sr. Regina Murphy, right, with New York City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman, center, at the presentation of the 1991 Doors of Hope Award. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  6. Sr. Regina Murphy, left, with Oliver Kearney at the presentation of the 1991 Doors of Hope Award. Photo courtesy of Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C.
  7. Sr. Regina Murphy, S.C., 23 September 2008. Photo by Christine Haggerty.

Notes:

  1. Founded by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first mission of the Sisters of Charity of New York was in 1817; they were officially established as a congregation in 1846. For its history see http://www.scny.org/ourHistory.html
  2. Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, http://www.iccr.org/
  3. For their continuing impact on New York City, for example, see The McBride Principles and The Equality Agenda in Northern Ireland (2006) at http://www.comptroller.nyc.gov/press/pdfs/pr-06-11-084_macbride_principles.pdf