By Jerry Duggan
After working in Catholic education for more than two decades, Tim Murphy found a new opportunity that broadened his definition of ”educator.” As director of Manresa House of Retreats in Covent, La., Murphy has found an intersection of his natural gifts of educating and leading and his passion for sharing Ignatian Spirituality with others.
Murphy began his career as a teacher at Jesuit High School New Orleans, then spent ten years as principal at St. Matthew the Apostle School in River Ridge, La. While there, Murphy encouraged the all-layperson faculty to think in Ignatian terms.
“My number one responsibility as principal was to oversee the spiritual formation of the faculty, but with no religious on staff, that was a challenge,” Murphy said. “From my time at Loyola and over the years I had become very familiar with Ignatian Spirituality, and I thought it natural to apply at this school.”
Murphy put together days of recollection for the faculty and anchored his approach on the Jesuit practice of finding God in all things. His efforts were so transformative that the school adopted as its motto “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the Greater Glory of God.” The motto remains, nearly a decade and a half after Murphy’s departure, a testament to his impact.
One day, two people in Murphy’s orbit – his wife and the secretary at St. Matthew – both happened to see an ad for interim director at Manresa House of Retreats. Both encouraged Murphy to apply.
He took their advice and was hired in 2006. After a year, he was asked to stay on board full time, and is still leading Manresa today.
“I get to educate and engage with others, which is what I love doing, but I don’t have the monotony of grading papers anymore,” he remarked.
In this role, Murphy acts as an administrator, overseeing the maintenance of Manresa’s 150-acre campus, with many buildings that date to the 19th century. His past appointment as a principal equipped him with the skills for these duties.
“Everything from making sure the grass is mowed to coordinating our dining operations, to keeping up with our physical plant, which is a constant thing, is part of the secular, administrative area of my job,” he said.
In addition, Murphy is responsible for overseeing the retreat schedule at the largest Jesuit retreat house in the U.S., based on number of annual retreatants. In a typical pre-COVID year, Manresa welcomed some 6,200 retreatants, spread out over 57 three-day silent retreats. Murphy spends much of his time coordinating speakers for each retreat. A staff of 22 helps him oversee such a large operation.
While his hours are long and responsibilities many, Murphy finds satisfaction in the letters and phone calls he receives from retreatants. They provide him with a sense of a job well done and speak to the power of Ignatian Spirituality.
“The feedback I receive assures me that my work is worthwhile, and it’s very fulfilling to know that we are making a difference in so many lives and doing work that is needed in today’s world,” he said.
Although he often gets bogged down with administrative work, Murphy strives to not lose sight of the bigger picture.
“At the end of the day, all my work leads to teaching people how to pray in an Ignatian way,” he said. “Our main goal is to carry on the tradition of Ignatian Spirituality and share it with as many people as we possibly can, and I’m honored to do that.”
To learn more about Manresa and its retreat offerings, visit https://www.manresala.org/