The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Palmerston North was filled on May 11 for the investiture of former Palmerston North diocesan manager Tony Murphy as a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great.
Many of those at the celebration had worked with Mr Murphy during his 18 years as general manager. Chaplains, priests, religious, finance and pastoral council members, those connected to the schools, friends and parishioners were at the afternoon service.
After Cardinal John Dew had pinned the medal on him and read out the papal citation, the cathedral resounded with applause as Mr Murphy was given a standing ovation.
“This appreciation went beyond our diocese to include the bishops of the other dioceses, and Tony’s counterparts in the other dioceses,” said Bishop Peter Cullinane, Bishop Emeritus of Palmerston North.
“He was a member of the Catholic bishops’ conference finance committee, and of national bodies, to which the bishops appointed him — including those reviewing Catholic education, our New Zealand Catholic insurance scheme, and restructuring at our national seminary and Catholic tertiary education, to name only some,” Bishop Cullinane said.
Mr Murphy said that, upon first hearing of his being made a Knight of the order of Saint Gregory the Great, he felt “shocked, very surprised and humbled”.
“I got paid for my work and struggled to comprehend how I deserved it when a lot of other people — particularly volunteers — do very good work and aren’t recognised,” he said.
Starting as diocesan manager in 2002, when other bishops in New Zealand were making similar appointments, his job description then covered anything that was not considered “pastoral”.
“Initially, it was to do with money and property, but as I moved into the position it became apparent it was linked pastorally, since it was about parish schools, principals, buildings and property, finance committees and people,” Mr Murphy said.
The Christchurch earthquake in February, 2011, had the most impact on his workload.
“All the parish and school buildings across the diocese had to be inspected for earthquake strength, determining whether they were structurally safe or not. To bring them up to standard cost $24 million over five years,” he said.
How he made decisions changed over the years as well.
“I used to make decisions on my own, but then began to consult, seek advice and collaborate, particularly with those at the parish level,” said the father of five and grandad to 12.
Closing his speech, Bishop Cullinane paid tribute to Mr Murphy’s wife, Denise.
“What Tony has achieved takes two. A life of generous service to a wider community draws much of its strength from the home. Today, we thank you too, Denise,” the bishop said.
Mr Murphy is the second lay person to receive such an honour in Palmerston North diocese. The other, in 1998, was the late Mrs Betty Bourke CBE, QSM and JP from Whanganui.