Home » Obituaries » Remembrance of the Life of Sister Angela Mary (formerly Sister Stephen Mary) Murphy SL

Remembrance of the Life of Sister Angela Mary (formerly Sister Stephen Mary) Murphy SL

Posted on January 16, 2022, by Eleanor Craig SL

Sister Angela Mary (formerly Sister Stephen Mary) Murphy SL
Mar. 3, 1929 – Jan. 16, 2022

Angela Mary Murphy was born in Sterling, Ill., the daughter of Stephen Andrew Murphy and Genevieve Angela Potts.  Angie was very proud that her great grandfather, Henry Potts, was a Civil War veteran who fought in the battle of Perryville, Ky.  

Along with her four brothers and one sister, Angie attended St. Mary’s parochial school and Catholic Community High School in Sterling, where they were in daily contact with Sisters of Loretto.  It was natural that Angie would consider joining the Sisters, and she wrote a matter-of-fact letter saying so to Mother General Edwarda in the fall of her senior year.

We have Angie’s autobiography from the time of her Golden Jubilee, in which she wrote the following:

“I arrived at Loretto on Oct. 25, 1946.  For 12 years I had been taught by the Sisters of Loretto in Sterling. They were outstanding examples for me as I made my decision to enter Loretto.  It was with Loretto that I felt that I could “serve God.’

“When I left Sterling, I remember telling my family, “Goodbye, I’ll see you in six years,” meaning I would see them in Sterling. But my family made those twice-a-year trips to Loretto [during my novitiate.]  It wasn’t until later when I was driving those wonderful highways to Loretto that I fully appreciated their long trips from Illinois.

“We were such a large novitiate class, and it was wonderful to have such companionship in spite of the silence rules.  As I reflect back on those days, I realize how isolated I was from the “world.’” 

This remark about what she did and didn’t know about the world is echoed several times as Angie went on to describe her years of teaching in Texas, California, Alabama and then Bolivia:

“My first mission was for one year in El Paso, Texas.  For nine years I taught at Holy Name in Los Angeles. The children there were African-American and Japanese-American.  I didn’t realize that the Japanese children has been in the camps during World War II.  I spent three years at Catholic High in Montgomery, Ala. I never realized the deep problems of segregation.”

During the summers Angie studied at Loretto Heights College and Mount St. Mary’s in Los Angeles. She received her bachelor’s in Spanish from the Heights in 1957.  Further studies of Spanish followed, at Loyola and at Rosary College, in Chicago.  Then in 1962 Angie went to Mexico to prepare for La Paz. Here is what she wrote of those times:

“I was 33 when I left for La Paz, Bolivia.  I taught the primary grades and English as a second language.  My 10 years in Bolivia were some of my happiest years, and I always say that it was my favorite place to live.  I loved the closeness of La Paz.  It was wonderful to know Bolivian religious and religious from other countries.  

“We had nothing to do with the U.S. presence in Bolivia.  The nationalization of Gulf Oil in the 1960s and the killing of Che Guevara made me realize U.S. power over other nations. During my last year in La Paz I felt that we were in political danger — especially when Eva was denied entrance back into Bolivia and our Bolivian Assistant Principal was taken prisoner and had to leave the country. Aside from that year, I felt that I took in good stride the many coups that took place during my 10 years there.  My experience in Bolivia, living in a third world country, has kept me involved in Central and South American issues.  

“As it became clear that we could not continue the type of Loretto education because of problems with the government, I decided to return to the States.  Leaving Bolivia was very painful.  I had been assigned to La Paz but when I returned to the States in 1972 I had to find my own work and living community.  And even though I felt that we in South America had been ahead of changes in the States, it was hard to adjust.”  

When Angie returned to the states she settled in St. Louis, where she taught primary grades at St. Rose of Lima for three years and then 17 years at Mary Queen of Peace. After 45 years in the classroom Angie joined the staff of Hosea House, a St. Louis social service agency.  In 1997 she paused to search for meaningful work for the years ahead, then took a receptionist job with Southside Catholic Community Services for five years, from which she transitioned to a dozen years of volunteer work with Hosea House and with Hi-Point Center.  In 2017 Angie retired to Loretto Motherhouse with Nancy Wittwer and Elizabeth Ann Compton, her household companions of four decades.  

Even at the Motherhouse, Angie continued her correspondence with students and friends in Bolivia, sharing with Eva Salas and Mary Peter both the memories and the present concerns of their South American colleagues.  She explained her ongoing interests by saying, “In 1993 Sister Eva Marie, Mary Peter and I returned for a visit.  That was a very emotional visit for us as we realized how well our students had been prepared and how much they had missed the Loretto presence in their later life.”

The very day of Angie’s death, Lupe Arciniega received condolences from the Loretto women in Bolivia.  Ximena Ferguson wrote, “I am sad to learn about the passing of Sister Angie. My deepest condolences to you and to all the Sisters at the Motherhouse.

“She was my favorite Sister. I fondly remember her no-nonsense approach to teaching, her wonderful laugh, and her frank personality.”

“She was my math teacher, and she made enormous impact in my primary education. Thanks to her, I can do all kinds of arithmetic in my head, without the aid of calculators, or ‘fingers and toes.’

“Please let us know about the arrangements for the memorial service.

“My thoughts and prayers are with all of you during this difficult time.”

Sister Barbara Barbato wrote the following about Angie for the St. Louis Review: “Sister Angela’s energy for service seems inexhaustible. She has worked with pre-school children in a Family Literacy Program, with The Center for Women Transitioning out of jail in St. Louis and with the St. Louis Interfaith Committee on Latin America.  She has been to Nicaragua with the Witness for Peace, and on accompaniment trips to Guatemala and El Salvador.  Most memorable to her was her visit to the late Sister Ann Manganero in Guarjila, El Salvador, to witness Sister Ann’s dedication to and work with the people there.  Responding to the needs of the poor and homeless in St. Louis and the needs of Central and South Americans as well as to the many calls for her assistance from the Loretto Community have made up the daily ministry of Sister Angela.”  

To this Angie added, “I have always found great support, encouragement and example from my local community and the larger Loretto Community.”

A wake for Sister Angie will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET Wednesday, Jan. 19, at Loretto Motherhouse. Her funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. ET Thursday, Jan. 20, at the Loretto Motherhouse Church, followed by a natural burial in the Loretto Motherhouse Cemetery.

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Eleanor Craig SL

Eleanor has been a Sister of Loretto since 1963 and an educator since birth. She graduated from two of Loretto's best known St. Louis institutions, Nerinx Hall High School in 1960, and Webster University in 1967. She taught mathematics at Loretto in Kansas City, where her personal passion for adventure history inspired her to develop and lead treks along the historic Oregon Trail. From 1998 to 2010 she created an award-winning program of outdoor adventure along the Western trails for teens who are visually impaired. Eleanor claims to have conducted more wagon trains to the West than the Mountain Men! From 2012 to 2021, Eleanor led a talented staff of archivists and preservationists at the Loretto Heritage Center on the grounds of the Motherhouse. She recently retired, but still serves in the Heritage Center as Loretto Community Historian.

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