Dr. Murphy/Mrs. Murphy Interview

Christmas is one of the most joyful times of the year, and it’s no surprise that at Catalina this season is abundant with holiday cheer and jubilant festivities. From KKs to Candlelight Mass, the long standing traditions at Catalina enhance this season and are essential to the school’s identity. This month, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Murphy and Mrs. Murphy on their perspective on Christmas in their family and how they have enjoyed the various traditions here at Catalina.

When asked about what Christmas means to his family, Dr. Murphy commented on how Advent is central to the Christmas season, explaining, “Christmas is a time of excitement and preparation; children wait in earnest for Santa Claus, and the season of Advent is in anticipation of the birth of Christ. In our family, we celebrate this season with gatherings around our Advent wreath, accompanied with prayers and music. Spending time with family is also fundamental to this season. Using this time as an opportunity to reflect on life together can strengthen relationships and bring peace.” In addition to customs within his family, Dr. Murphy emphasized his love and appreciation for the traditions celebrated within the Catalina community. As he articulated, “The Christmas concert and Candlelight mass are such wonderful events on campus, getting to see the choir and ensemble perform is very special, and Mr. Purcell and Mrs. Devlin always organize an outstanding performance.”

One of the older Christmas traditions that is no longer observed at Catalina, are the winter uniforms. “They resembled Christmas trees,” Mrs. Murphy stated, “They signified the cold weather and the change of season, and the long skirts were designed to keep students warm. The common complaint was that the skirts were made of wool, which caused them to smell bad when they got wet.” Another tradition that has changed over time is the Christmas Eve Mass. Previously a midnight mass, Mrs. Murphy recalls her time as a student and the challenge of having a mass at that late time. “I remember falling asleep in the back pews,” she remarked, “Most of us had a hard time staying awake, but it was a beautiful mass to celebrate the birth of Christ.” This mass, now an afternoon Christmas Eve Mass, continues to carry on Catalina’s Catholic tradition while highlighting the importance of the season.

In the spirit of holiday joy, one of most common practices associated with Christmas is the giving of gifts to loved ones. Mrs. Murphy gave a heartwarming answer when asked what was the most memorable gift she has ever received. “I would have to say that having my son, George, was the best gift I have ever received. I was very pregnant with George during Advent, so his birth itself seemed like a Christmas gift. Becoming a mother is one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had, and I am so blessed to be able to raise such a wonderful son in this loving family.”

Christmas is a time for love, laughter, and family, but also a time for service. When talking to Dr. and Mrs. Murphy, both were more than happy to share what Christmas means to them and how service intertwines itself during “the most wonderful time of the year.”

Dr. Murphy describes the initial idea of Christmas: “It has always been a time for children… filled with magical traditions…yet it also cannot be talked about or discussed without talking about advent.” Through the years of celebrating at Santa Catalina, the Murphy’s share that their most resonant memories are that of Candlelight Mass, the Christmas Concert, and furthermore, the caroling done around a huge Christmas tree in front of the Rosary Chapel. And while these memories are filled with friends and family coming together to celebrate Jesus’s birth, Mrs. Murphy goes on to tell us how every December service fills her weeks leading up to December 24th.

Every year the Lower and Middle School students band together in their Compass Groups (Excellence, Spirituality, Service, and Responsibility) and each group heads off individually to four different elder facilities/nursing homes to perform Christmas carols. Mrs. Murphy describes this relatively new Catalina tradition as teaching “[the students] the essence of service.” This event enables students to “engage with the residents,” and in turn the residents give a “gift” to the students. Residents give students the gift of wisdom, knowledge, and the blessing of stories. Varying from women who remember singing in their choir as High Schoolers, to veterans from war, to grandfathers talking with the boys about the positions they played as a kid on their baseball team, Mrs. Murphy talks about how “it’s palpable…this experience helps children to engage” and “offers the lesson of charity” to everyone involved. “We are all connected” through this experience. “They are really offering service to us” and it “shows that we are learning more about ourselves and what we can do” as humans, and as a community. Mrs. Murphy finished by saying that through this experience the residents are actually “growing us”.

While Christmas is most certainly a time of laughter and spending time with those we love, it is also a time of service; a time where we as a community can learn from the person(s) we extend our hands out to in the spirit of the holidays. In conclusion, when preparing for Christmas, advent, and everything that might entail for you individually, consider involving these three aspects in your Christmas preparations; that of spending time with your loved ones, laughter (having fun with all), and finally service (big or small). Merry Christmas!!