Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ
Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ

Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, 77, a beloved figure in the Diocese of Albany for her work as a guidance counselor, teacher and director of Pyramid Life Center, was tragically killed in a car accident Monday afternoon. She had been a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet for the past 58 years.

“All of us in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany are so saddened to learn of the news of Sister Monica’s passing. She was a beloved figure in our Diocese, bringing her passion for her Catholic faith — and for all people — to everything she did, whether in our Catholic schools, where she served for more than four decades, or at Pyramid Life Center, where she was the driving force that has kept that camp thriving since its beginnings,” said Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger in a statement. 

“Our prayers are with the communities of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet, Catholic Central High School and Pyramid Life Center during this difficult time. Our prayers also for sister’s family, including Sister Maureen Murphy, CSJ. We know Sister Monica has gone before us marked with the sign of faith to meet the One to whom she gave her entire life, but that does not make it any easier for those of us left behind. We will miss her, but we will carry on the work she loved in her absence and in her memory.”

According to the New York state police, Sister Monica was traveling east on State Route 74 in the town of Schroon, when her Toyota Corolla veered into the opposite lane, colliding head-on with a Ford F-250 driven by John Homer III, 49, with passenger Dalton Homer, 22, both of North Creek. Sister Monica was pronounced dead at the scene, while the Homers were taken to a local hospital where they were treated for neck and back pain and released. State police believe Sister Monica may have suffered a medical emergency which caused the accident.

Sister Monica was born in Hudson, on April 8, 1942, daughter of the late James and Kathryn Fitzpatrick Murphy. After graduating from St. Mary’s Academy, Hudson, she entered the novitiate of the Sisters of St. Joseph on March 20, 1961 and professed final vows on Aug. 6, 1968.

Sister Monica received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from The College of Saint Rose, a master’s degree in mathematics education from Duke University and a second master’s degree in counseling from The College of Saint Rose. 

“Our communion of schools is united in grief as we cope with the sudden loss of our dear friend Sr. Monica Murphy,” said Giovanni Virgiglio, superintendent of schools. “A champion for Catholic education and model of the faith, Sr. Monica impacted the lives of generations of students throughout her over 50 years of dedicated and compassionate service to our schools. May her beautiful legacy live on in each of us.” 

For 53 years, she served as teacher, counselor and campus minister in schools of the Albany Diocese, including St. Mary’s High School, Hoosick Falls (1970); Bishop Scully High School, Amsterdam (1983); Notre Dame-Bishop High School, Schenectady  (1988, she was also the NDBG Board president from 2009-12); and Catholic Central High School, Troy, where she ministered for 33 years (1965-70, 73 and 2001 until her death). 

“We mourn the loss of an important member of our community. Sister Monica Murphy, CSJ, has been part of Catholic Central for 30 years and a Catholic educator for more than 50 years,” Ridge Harris, chairman, the board of trustees at Catholic Central, posted on the school’s Facebook page. “She was a pillar of our institution and made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of young people. Throughout her time at Catholic Central, she was a teacher, guidance counselor, spiritual counselor, mentor, friend, and the Crusaders #1 fan.

“She was a stalwart example of what it meant to live the “Crusader Spirit.” She will not be forgotten and her presence will be felt for years to come.”

For 14 summers, Sister Monica was assistant director of Camp Scully, an Albany Diocesan camp for children on Snyder’s Lake. In 1988, she began what would be a 31-year career as director of Pyramid Life Center, a place of hospitality for vacation, workshops and retreats. 

“Sister Monica and Father Bob Roos founded what is now Pyramid Life Center more than 30 years ago. Sister was instrumental in developing Pyramid to what it is today through overseeing facility upgrades, day to day operations and, of course, keeping everyone well fed,” Pyramid Life Center wrote on their Facebook page.  

“While the loss of Sr. Monica is tragic to the entire PLC family, it is our belief that she would want us to carry on her work. Therefore, Pyramid will continue to operate under our normal schedule for the rest of the season and beyond. … Please keep Sister, her family, the Sisters of St. Joseph and the PLC community in your prayers.”

Under Sister Monica’s brilliant and creative direction, Pyramid’s stunning natural beauty was enhanced by workshops in such areas as spirituality, writing, peacemaking and the environment, along with ample opportunities for outdoor physical activities to become a much sought-after place for individuals, families and groups.

Sister Monica celebrated her 50th anniversary at a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet in 2011 in a ceremony at Catholic Central High School in Troy. 

“Sister Monica was guided by a very simple but strongly held principle: she put herself in God’s hands and lived to serve others. She breathed generosity and exuded dedication, vitality and faith,” said the Sisters of St. Joseph in a press release. “Sister Monica’s ministry and her relationships were marked by an attentive presence to each individual, an unconditional respect for all God’s people, and a work ethic marked by productivity, reliability and fun! Her prayer manifested its fruits through loving and repeated acts of kindness, goodness and compassion. Sister Monica was a spring of life-giving energy and hope to all who knew her, and her memory will live on for years to come.”

Sister Monica is survived by her beloved sister, Sister Maureen Murphy, CSJ; her nephews and nieces: Michael Day, Patrick Day, Dr. James Witko, Patricia Day, Joanne Bartolotta, William Day and Kathryn Day; many dear friends; and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet with special mention of Sister Lynn Levo and Sister Jackie Power with whom Sister Monica lived. In addition to her parents, Sister Monica was predeceased by her dear sisters, Eileen Witko and Kathryn Day, and her nephew, Martin Day. 

In keeping with Sister Monica’s wishes for a green burial, her interment will take place on Friday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m. in the cemetery on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Provincial House in Latham. There will be calling hours in the chapel of the Provincial House following the burial on Friday from 4-7 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. Sister Monica's Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Saturday, Aug. 10, at 9 a.m. in the chapel of the Provincial House. 

Contributions in Sister Monica’s memory may be made to the Development Office of the Sisters of St. Joseph, 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road, Latham, NY 12110