Papakura parish priest Fr Peter Murphy has been appointed as spiritual director of Holy Cross Seminary.
Fr Murphy, who will start in his post early next year, said he will be sad to leave his parish, but he is open to this new opportunity.
“I was not looking for a move. But I am getting to that retirement age or close to that. Do I just hang on here forever till I drop? What do I do? I have been in that frame of mind, discerning when to let go,” he said.
Papakura parish, where he spent 15 of his 50 years of ministry, is his “spiritual home”, he said. The bond between the priest and the parishioners is sacred.
But the role of spiritual formator is also sacred, he noted. He sees his role as “just being there, being available, and just encouraging as far as their prayer life is concerned”.
“Particularly when you’re starting off, you need a lot of encouragement, because it’s not easy. It is far easier to give up because there are so many things to do. You need to get over that hurdle. The getting over those initial humps or obstacles would be the big challenge,” he said.
“Spiritual formation is primarily developing a discipline of prayer that is built around the Liturgy of the Hours or the Divine Office. But also, it [discipline of prayer] is about time for meditation, too. That is absolutely essential as far as priestly ministry is concerned,” he said.
Fr Murphy had been practising and teaching contemplative prayer for many years. He also taught meditation to primary school children in their parish.
“The children, as soon as they hear my gong, they fall into position. It is lovely really. We are meditating for four minutes after Communion. The adults can’t believe it when they see their children being so still. But you know, when they are together, there’s a sacred energy there,” he said.
Fr Murphy said that developing the seminary students’ inner lives through prayer will be his primary concern.
“For someone in ministry, if you are not speaking from your inner experience, you’re just talking rubbish,” he said.
“My role is not disciplinary,” he said. “It’s purely on an interpersonal level. But if they are not measuring up (in terms of prayer), I would say that’s a good indication they may not be suitable for priesthood.”
Fr Murphy said the meditation he was taught in the seminary is very different from the one he practises now. He said that, around 50 to 60 years ago, meditation was very cerebral, whereas today it is about “being still”.
“It [contemplative prayer] is work. It is a discipline. Once it is established, it becomes a gift that you can’t do without. That’s the beauty of it. It becomes a normal part of life, such as eating and sleeping,” he said.
“We are spiritual beings on a human journey, as I’ve been told. I think it is important to recognise that. It’s so easy to get lost in the busyness of life that you lose sight of that.”