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Joseph Anthony Murphy

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Title: Joseph Anthony Murphy  
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Subject: History of Roman Catholicism in Belize, List of Belize-related topics, 1857 births, 1939 deaths
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Joseph Anthony Murphy

The Most Reverend
Joseph A. Murphy, S.J.
Vicar Apostolic of Belize
Church Catholic Church
See Titular Bishop of Birtha
Appointed December 23, 1923
In office May 4, 1924 - July 16, 1938
Predecessor Frederick C. Hopkins, S.J.
Successor William A. Rice, S.J.
Ordination August 26, 1888
Consecration March 19, 1924
by Archbishop John J. Glennon
Personal details
Born December 24, 1857
Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland
Died November 25, 1939(1939-11-25) (aged 81)
British Honduras
Previous post Dean of College of Arts and Science, Marquette University
Joseph Anthony Murphy was born in Ireland but raised in Chicago. He became a Jesuit priest and served, inter alia, as dean of the liberal arts college at Marquette University for eleven years and as Vicar Apostolic for the Catholic mission in British Honduras (Belize), Central America, being ordained bishop on March 19,1924.[2]

Early life and work

Joseph Anthony Murphy was born in Dundalk County Louth, Ireland, December 24, 1857. He lost his mother at a young age and his father moved the family of three boys and seven girls to Chicago, where Joseph attended St. Ignatius College Prep and then entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at St. Stanislaus Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri. His priestly studies were at Woodstock College, Maryland, where he was ordained a priest on August 26, 1888. He then served at Detroit College as Prefect of Studies (1895-1905) and on the mission in British Honduras from 1905 until 1910 when he suffered a severe attack of tropical fever.

College dean and bishop

He returned to the States to become dean of the liberal arts college of Marquette University (1910-1921) and then for two years professor of philosophy at St. Louis University. He had been requesting reassignment to the Jesuit mission and it came in the form of his appointment, at age 66, as Vicar Apostolic for British Honduras. He was consecrated bishop by Archbishop Glennon in St. Louis, Missouri, on March 19, 1924.[4] He would preside from Holy Redeemer, the mother church in Belize with its cathedral dating back to 1858. His episcopacy would be marked by construction projects like that of Holy Redeemer Hall, the largest in Belize at the time,[5] as well as by reconstruction after the 1931 Belize hurricane, a category 4 that killed approximately 2500 people.

Irish Catholic

Murphy carried into Maya village
Murphy Jubilee parade in Belize

Murphy was a Catholic to the core. Born just at the edge of Catholic Ireland, he was nowhere close to being on the border line as a Catholic. From his youth he had imbibed an unwavering faith that would not admit of half measures or concessions. Murphy’s zeal for Catholicism was deeply rooted in Irish Catholicism and Irish-English relations. He refused to stand for the British National Anthem at public ceremonies, or to receive the Anglican bishop for a visit.[5] Murphy seemed to relish the ceremonial of his office. He made a regal entry into Keckchi villages, carried on a chair on the shoulders of the Maya with palm leaves and banners waving around him.[6] For his fiftieth jubilee as a priest Belize Town gave him a regal parade.[5] Cardiac asthma brought on his resignation at the age of 80. He died in his sleep on November 25, 1939, in Milwaukee.[2]


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  5. ^ a b c *Woods, Charles M. Sr., et al. Years of Grace: The History of Roman Catholic Evangelization in Belize: 1524-2014. (Belize: Roman Catholic Diocese of Belize City-Belmopan, 2015), 207-211.
  6. ^ “Bishop Murphy, SJ, welcomed in state by Keckchi Indians, British Honduras.” Jesuit Missions, July-Aug. 1931, cover.

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