I grew up in a Catholic family in Birmingham and was blessed by attending a wonderful Catholic primary school, run by a saintly headmistress. I received an excellent religious and academic start in life. I vividly remember making my first communion, confession and confirmation. An aunt who was a nun asked me when I was quite young what I would like to be when I grew up, so, to please her, I said, “A priest.”
Priests were always positive figures in my childhood and the ones who came to school were gentle and encouraging. Once when walking to the shops with my father, we met the parish priest. My father greeted him but the priest whispered, “I’m carrying the Blessed Sacrament.” I was fascinated by the mystery.
I had many of the usual questions and quibbles through secondary school, but again look back on many blessings. I sang in the choir at St Chad’s Cathedral where the music and masses were beautifully inspiring. Having attended Newman’s Oratory prior to this, I listened to the homilies of Canon McCarty, and, without knowing it, was being further grounded in a faith that made sense to me.
I studied English at university and decided to follow my parents’ footsteps: both were teachers and I had a positive and practical insight into the profession, as well as a desire to serve others fostered by my faith. In fact, looking back, I enjoyed teaching so much that I suppressed a vague sense of calling to priesthood across the years.
Only when I took up my first Catholic teaching job did a vocation really flourish. In 2003 I was appointed as a Senior Tutor at Loreto College in Manchester and I moved from Brentwood to Salford Diocese. I gradually shed more of my English teaching and took up R.E. and also served in the chaplaincy, organising events, liturgies, masses and trips to Lourdes. The Salford priests who came to college impressed me greatly. In 2010, in my parish church in Rusholme, there was a banner advertising “The Year of the Priest.” Each time I returned from Communion it felt like a denial not to apply. After a year at Ushaw College and four years at the Beda College in Rome, here I am.
And I am here to serve, to learn and to share.
Fr Kevin Murphy