Fr Patrick O'Shea recalls the life and service of Fr Tom Murphy, who died on mission in Myanmar.
The unofficial Columban anthem contains a line about going forth on toilsome ways "by saints and heroes trod". I wonder if Fr Tom Murphy, who was born in Naas in 1906, ever thought when he was growing up that he would join that list of saints and heroes.
At Naas CBS, and later Mungret College, he would have been exposed to many presentations on vocation to priesthood. Given that he joined the Columbans in 1929 he was obviously thinking of dedicating his life to the service of the gospel as an overseas missionary. Past experience of Columbans, especially in the early days in China, would have made it clear that there were big risks involved in overseas mission. My impression is that the missionaries then understood and accepted the risks as what one early Columban missionary to China, Fr Cornelius Tierney referred to as "part of the bargain".
Fr Tom was ordained in 1935 and soon after was appointed to Burma. He was part of a group of young men with little experience of mission who took on new mission territory there in 1936. He worked in the Bhamo area, not far from the border with China. As well as the expected challenges of climate, language and culture, the new group was assigned to a remote part of the country where the people lived in tiny villages scattered over mountainous terrain. Bhamo was also notorious for cerebral malaria and Fr John Dunlea died after he contracted typhoid in 1940.