WHO DOES THIS?
The Men and Women Who Go Inside
The prison ministry newsletter for the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon has been encouraging Catholics to heed the Gospel call to serve the imprisoned. The stories of those who have responded to this call are inspiring. This is the fifth installment of a series of these stories, highlighting both seasoned volunteers and those who have more recently come into this ministry. Those who have found their way inside prison walls and those who are serving in related ministries will be featured.
Bill Murphy is a strong Catholic whose middle name should be "Servant." His life resonates with the passion he has for following the teaching of Jesus Christ to serve God and one another. In his first career he served the citizens of our country in the US Navy from 1972 through 1994 with a short break to further his education. While stationed on the USS Halsey he took the call to serve one step further by conducting Communion services in the absence of a Catholic chaplain. Some time later he followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Knights of Columbus, beginning a lifelong involvement in many of their volunteer activities. And after his military career, he assumed another service profession as a high school teacher.
But he found his real heart as servant when he began visiting the state prison in 2009 as a volunteer in Salisbury, North Carolina. A parish acquaintance had invited him to come along one evening. He says that he surprised himself by saying "Yes." Now a seasoned volunteer at Oregon State Penitentiary, the expressions of thanks from those he has visited over the years keeps him fresh for this work, and he says that the men he has had the "privilege to visit have taught me as much about compassion and people as nearly anyone else in my life." He has taken this ministry a step further by becoming a mentor for Sponsors, Inc., a turn-around reentry organization in Eugene.
Bill is relentless and passionate, one might even say "pushy," in his efforts to build awareness and engage others in the mission to further this corporal work of mercy. He established an annual Prison Ministry Forum at St. Paul's in Eugene in 2018; he has organized tours and orientation for potential volunteers at the Lane County Jail; he has urged others to become mentors for Sponsors; he has galvanized the KoC statewide to revitalize their commitment to prison ministry in following the example of Fr. Michael McGivney, founder of the Knights.
Now the only things that keep Bill from visiting at OSP are the pandemic and the fact that for over a year he has been challenged by living with Stage 4 cancer. Although he is saddened to miss seeing the men, he retains his good humor and faith throughout chemotherapy and treatments, and he continues to work to pass along the torch in any way he can. He is driven to involve more people in prison and jail ministry, and emphasizes personal invitation as the means, just as it was for him. So Bill asks you to join him next time he goes in. And Jesus calls to you: "Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me."