25 Jan 2022

The end of an era at Offaly parochial houses

The end of an era at Offaly parochial houses

L. to r. Fr Michael Reddan, Ann Murphy and Fr Pat Gilbert.

When Ann Murphy’s work in the parochial houses in Birr recently came to an end, it also signified the end of an era. For 23 years Ann epitomised the very best attributes of hospitality, care and welcoming to all who entered her domain as housekeeper there.

Her exquisite skills as a chef ensured that her reputation quickly spread throughout the diocese and countless guests, both clerical and lay, from the four corners of the world and beyond were privileged to experience her culinary skills over the years.
Her care and attention to our welfare was the envy of our fellow priests. To say she went beyond the call of duty in her work would be a poor acknowledgement of the time, energy and devotion she put into the smooth running of our houses.

As well as cooking and keeping house, she acted as interior designer par excellence. The upkeep of two very old period houses was absolutely safe in her capable hands. Her choice of paint colour, wall paper design, curtain fabric or carpet was always flawless in its taste and woe betide the plumber, painter or carpenter who came up short under her critical eye.

Above all, Ann was, and indeed is, a person of kindness, generosity and devotion to her work. Her qualities of integrity, reliability and trustworthiness were recognised and valued by all who met her. Ann is blessed with a sympathetic, non judgemental ear and many casual visitors to our houses would become lifelong friends.

Her cheerful, chatty demeanour brightened up many a gloomy day for those she met. Her commitment was total and went far past the call of duty in energy and time. I have no doubt she will be sorely missed by those of us whose lives she enhanced by her presence.

When I first came to Birr to experience the privilege of serving St Brendan’s parish community, the late Fr Tony Cahir said “Michael, if you join us, I guarantee that you won’t regret it because we have a beautiful human being, Ann Murphy, as our housekeeper. She has made a home for us and will do so also for you.”

Having spent many years serving away, far from home in South America, I would come to appreciate those words very much. Fr Tony always affectionately spoke of ‘our Ann’ when speaking of her or introducing her to visitors, so it is fitting that I take this opportunity to say a sincere thank you and wish many long and happy days of health and happiness to ‘our Ann’ on my own behalf and of all the priests and laypeople who were blessed to experience her kindness and care over the past 23 years.

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