The Rev. Thomas Murphy, a member of the Indianapolis legal community who left the practice of law to become a priest, died Friday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.
He was 82.
“He was a dear, dear friend,” said Nancy Gargula, U.S. Trustee for Region 10 and Region 13. “He embraced everyone of all faiths and he nurtured everyone to make the most of every day and give back.”
Murphy graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1954 and the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1961. He practiced law for 19 years at Hilgedag Johnson Secrest and Murphy in Indianapolis.
He entered politics, serving one term in the Indiana House of Representatives in 1965-1966 and running in the Democratic primary for Indiana Attorney in 1968.
Murphy was studying for the priesthood when Gargula began practicing as a young lawyer. They met at the Notre Dame Club of Indianapolis, where Murphy served as chaplain for several years, and developed a friendship over their common love for music.
He was an accomplished pianist and organist who played regularly at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Indianapolis and once for Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Murphy persuaded Gargula to cantor for the Sunday evening Mass at his parish, St. Joan of Arc. Prior to the service, the two would often sit in the small outdoor garden and talk. Gargula remembered Murphy being especially supportive during a time when her daughter was having difficulties.
Ordained in 1985, Murphy served at St. Lawrence and Christ the King parishes as well as at St. Joan of Arc and St. John the Evangelist. His work as the archdiocesan representative in the Ecumenical and Interfaith areas made him known well beyond the legal and Catholic communities.
Even after he became a priest, he maintained his ties to the law. He was a member of the Indianapolis and Indiana State bar associations and always attended the annual Red Mass. Members of the St. Thomas More Society recognized Murphy with the Man for All Seasons award, the highest honor the society can give recognizing character, courage and conviction.
Gargula said Murphy had a gift for instantly connecting with everyone he met and making friends easily.
Murphy’s ability to cultivate friendships impressed Patrick Olmstead, Greenwood attorney and president of the St. Thomas More Society of Indianapolis. Olmstead said whenever he spoke with Murphy, the priest would make him feel like the most important person in the room.
As his disease progressed, Murphy lost his ability to play the piano, became confined to a wheelchair, and struggled to speak. Olmstead remembered that through the hardships, Murphy was never bitter nor did he ever complain. He kept his dignity, remained humble and truly enjoyed being around other people.
“He was a real special guy,” Olmstead said.
A Mass celebrating Murphy’s life will begin at 11 a.m. March 7 at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 5333 E. Washington St., in Indianapolis. Visitation will be held at St. John the Evangelist Church from 3 to 8 p.m. March 6, and for one hour prior to the funeral Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes.