News & Updates

Marilyn Murphy lauded as advocate for women

The Catholic Globe | 10/18/2018

Sally Earley told a standing-room-only crowd that her sister Marilyn Murphy would not have been comfortable with the host of accolades presented Oct. 4.

“If Marilyn were standing here today, she would ask, ‘Why me?’” Earley said. “Her mission was to make life better for others.”

The Celebrating Community Project dedicated five new bronze sculptures, created by Mark Avery of North Sioux City, S.D., honoring the courage, sacrifice and selflessness of ordinary Siouxlanders at the Martin Luther King Jr. Transportation Center in Sioux City.

Murphy, the first diocesan social concerns facilitator/rural life contact for Catholic Charities, was recognized as an advocate for women. Earley emphasized Murphy would be comfortable with that.

“Marilyn often said, on more than one occasion, ‘This world would be a much better place if more women were in charge,’” Earley quipped.

Earley continued to illustrate Murphy’s sense of humor.

“Marilyn would say, ‘I am just a gray-haired, little, old lady,’ and you knew something was coming,” she said.

Even with her wisecracks, Earley noted her sister had a “passion” for social justice.

“Marilyn was known for ‘having your back,’” she said. “How lucky am I to have had Marilyn as my big sister.”

Murphy, who died in 2012 at the age of 91, received numerous awards through the years.

“I know Marilyn wanted to leave this world a better place,” Earley said. “That’s why we are here today.”

Murphy served as social concerns advocate for 35 years starting in 1973 at Catholic Charities. She held this full-time position until she was 88 years old.

A lifelong Sioux City resident, Murphy served on numerous boards ranging from the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence to the Siouxland Drug Abuse Council and Iowa Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

Murphy also served on the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 1982-1985. Her efforts to promote peace, justice and equality appeared for decades via commentaries in The Catholic Globe.

A 1946 Briar Cliff College alum, Murphy was the first laywoman on the Briar Cliff Board of Trustees. She was the first woman to serve as chairperson of the Council of Community Services and the Iowa Commission of Substance Abuse.

Murphy was admitted to the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame Governor’s Award in 1988. She assisted in the formation of the Commission on Women in Church and Society. In 1999, Women Aware of Siouxland initiated the Marilyn Murphy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Avery and his wife Terri, another collaborator on the project, had met Murphy several times at NAACP events.

“We have learned so much about this powerful, loving and humble woman from her family and friends,” he said. “What a model of leadership she gave us.”

Phase 1 of the project was dedicated in 2015. Those elements included the “Arc” – a soaring steel sculpture, which tied together the bronze busts. Phase 2 was dedicated in 2016 when four additional pieces were added.

The NAACP and the Celebrating Community Foundation co-sponsored the sculpture park in cooperation with the City of Sioux City. Funding was provided through foundation grants, corporate donations and individual donations.

The bronze busts are mounted on pedestals alongside the MLK building with plaques indicating why the person was honored.

“All these people dedicated their lives selflessly to help other people,” Avery insisted.

The event also marked renaming the project as the Rudy and Flora Lee Celebrating Community Project in honor of their lifelong dedication to equality and justice. The sculpture park is open for public viewing 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the 500 block of Nebraska Street.

Other honorees on Oct 4 were: Susan LaFlesche Picotte, M.D. for native/indigenous Americans; Mike Wood for homeless Americans; Evelyn Freeman for African Americans and Rhoda Tenuta for victims of domestic violence.

Previously-dedicated sculptures included honorees: Hispanic/Latino Americans, Tomasa Salas; Jewish-Americans, Rabbi Albert Gordon; Asian Americans, Nguyen Thi Hong Cuc; Elderly, Beulah Webb; Children’s Advocate, George Boykin; Veterans, Sergeant First Class John Raymond Rice; Disabled Americans, Richard T. Owens and Recovery from Addiction/Substance Abuse, Connie Spain.

As shown in The Catholic Glove 10-18-2018. Please visit The Catholic Globe – article for full article and photos.