Father Murphy, oldest Catholic pastor in Kansas, retires

By Dave Myers and Tim Wenzl
Southwest Kansas Register
Father Ultan Murphy, 87, retired Jan. 3, after 33 years as pastor of St. Ann’s Parish in Olmitz. At the time of his retirement, he had the distinction of being the oldest Catholic pastor in the state of Kansas.
Father Murphy will continue to reside in the Olmitz community in his private residence. “I bought a house here,” said Father Murphy. “As they say in Ireland, ‘I’m part of the furniture.’”
Father Murphy was appointed pastor at Olmitz and Holy Trinity, Timken, in 1980. He served both parishes for 23 years until he announced his retirement earlier in 2003. He reconsidered, and his responsibilities were reduced to the Olmitz parish at that time. His official title also changed to “parochial administrator.” The Olmitz community will benefit from having a retired priest as a resident. “I’ll do what I do now,” Father Murphy said, “Say Mass every day, visit the sick, just fill in if I’m needed. They’re not going to miss me. No, I’ll be here; I’ll be around. I don’t go home to Ireland any more. My nieces and nephews come over here every few years. No need for me to go. With communication now, it’s just like being there – almost.
“After having served these people, I can say without any reservations, they’re just good people. All solid people, many from Eastern Europe, who brought the faith with them and kept the faith and are doing their best to pass that on to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. I’ve seen it in all of my 33 years.”
When asked about his happiest memories and what he’ll miss, Father Murphy responded: “The happiest part of my ministry has been many converts – marriages – getting people back to the Church. I’ll probably miss visiting the kids in the classroom on Sunday morning. That was one of my better things to do.”
Father Murphy resigns the pastorate at Olmitz with this simple advice to the parishioners, “Stay the course and believe in God and say your prayers. Take your children to Mass and make sure your children go to religion class.”
Father Murphy was ordained June 7, 1953, by The Most Reverend John Staunton, bishop of Ferns, at St. Peter’s Seminary, Wexford, Ireland. He was recruited for the Diocese of Wichita, but was transferred to the Diocese of Dodge City by agreement of Bishop Mark K. Carroll and Bishop John B. Franz. He has served under all six of the bishops who have shepherded the Diocese of Dodge City.
Father Murphy’s assignments include: assistant pastor at St. John, Hoisington, (two terms); and St. Rose of Lima, Great Bend; and pastor at St. Mary’s Loretto; St. John’s, Kiowa; St. John, St. John, and St. Francis, Seward; Holy Rosary, Medicine Lodge, and St. John’s, Kiowa, all prior to his appointment at Olmitz and Timken.
Father Anselm Eke, MSP, resident pastor at St. John the Evangelist, Hoisington, was assigned to the additional pastorate at St. Ann’s, Olmitz.