Newspaper Article 1994 – First abbot dies, 79

First abbot dies, 79

New Zealand’s first abbot, the Very Reverend Father Joseph Murphy died on Monday morning at Waipukurau hospital, surrounded by monks from Kopua’s Southern Star Abbey. He was 79.

Father Joe was born in County Cork Ireland, in early 1915. After finishing a few years of school he worked in his parent’s store in Castledownbere while he waited his turn in the large family to complete his education.

Because of the wait, Father Joe was 28 when he entered the Cistercian life at Mount Melleray Abbey in 1943.

He made his vows for life in 1948 and in 1950 was ordained to the priesthood and worked as assistant guest master at Mount Melleray.

In 1954 a group of six monks was sent to Kopua from the abbey to establish a monastery on a farm donated by the Prescott family. Father Joe joined the group in 1958 and worked as novice master.

He became the country’s first abbot in 1960 when the monastery was given the status of abbey. He worked as abbot for the next 26 years until his retirement eight years ago. Once retired he worked as guest master until last year when ill health forced him to step down.

Fellow monks said Father Joe’s years as abbot covered the difficult period of change in the Catholic Church following the second Vatican Council.

He was also well-known for his commitment to helping the poor or anyone in difficulty. His brother monks said people sought his help in domestic and marital problems until his death.

Catholics, people of other religions or no religion were all welcomed by Father Joe.

His funeral will be held tomorrow at 11am at the South Star Abbey.

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Newspaper article

Date published

7 December 1994


  • Very Reverend Father Joseph Murphy

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