St. Joseph School honors departing principal, Sister Christina Murphy

COLUMBIA — Youth today have few solid role models who bear a constant Christian witness in word and action.
On the last day of school at St. Joseph School, students had to bid farewell to such a role model when their principal of 15 years, Sister Christina Murphy, stepped down. The Sister of Notre Dame is beginning a new career as assistant administrator at Our Lady of the Hills Church.
“Sister Christina was a concrete example of how to live in a Christ-like manner,” said Christina Segars, a parent. “The children wanted to behave for her, never out of fear, but because of their love and respect for her.”
Lisa Militello reflected on a friendship that began long before she had children attending the school. “I have worked with sister 12 of the 15 years she has been at St. Joe’s. She is a fair and firm leader who is always kind,” she said.
Several parents commented on Sister Murphy’s warm sense of humor and how she took the time to personally sign each student’s report card, often writing words of encouragement.
“She has a wonderful Catholic reputation because she is such a good Christian,” fourth-grader Nicholas Bendillo said.
Patrick Dodd, a recent graduate of the school, said that everyone at St. Joseph’s would miss her.  No one could agree more than Nancy Klicka, the bookkeeper.
“When she first told me she was leaving, I just started to cry,” Klicka said. “I am very thankful to have worked for a wonderful boss who really cares, and I know that wherever she goes — across town or across the country — that if I ever need to talk she will be there for me.”
During her tenure, Sister Murphy made profound improvements in the school’s physical appearance, enrollment, and academic/spiritual opportunities. “The beautiful old lady” — as she described the school when she first arrived — got a much-needed face lift with renovations at the entrance, professional landscaping, new playground equipment, some additional classrooms and a new computer lab.
“When I first came to St. Joseph School, I saw wide horizons, and today I leave with a grateful heart,” Sister Murphy said. “The school can do nothing but improve in the future.”
Students, staff and parents surprised her with a special tribute May 24, a day that will now be remembered as Sister Christina Murphy Day, thanks to a proclamation from Columbia’s mayor, Bob Coble. City Councilwoman Anne Sinclair, who represents the school district, read the proclamation on behalf of the mayor and also handed her the keys to the city.
Sister Murphy also received a scrapbook full of pictures and memories, with each grade responsible for creating at least one page.  She was given an icon of St. Joseph holding the child Jesus. The children sang and signed a rendition of the Irish Blessing for her.
At an earlier event, Sister Murphy was honored by the parish community. Her assistant principal, Mary Ann Fey, shared some reflections on their administrator, principal and friend.
“Sister Christina has been zealous about what’s best for our children and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence,” Fey said. She described Sister Murphy as a friend with a generous spirit.  
Maria Carrero who worked for the principal as her administrative assistant from the beginning, also considered her more friend than employer.    
“Even though Sister Christina is going into a new ministry, it is not new to her at all,” Carrero said. “For as long as I’ve known her, she has ministered to the sick, the dying, those in need of spiritual and emotional healing.”
Sister Murphy will be involved in family enrichment projects, assisting in the annulment process, and prison ministry in addition to her new duties at Our Lady of the Hills.
Father Anthony Droze, pastor of the church, expressed how fortunate he and the parish are to have such a talented administrator coming to work with them.
“Over the past few years we’ve done some physical development of the grounds at Our Lady of the Hills,” he said. “It is now time to develop the staff.”
In her closing remarks, Fey quoted Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season and for every time there is a purpose under heaven,” describing Sister Murphy’s season at St. Joseph School as a fruitful one.  “And for that we are immensely grateful,” she said.