By Tess Dankoski, Staff Writer
Xavier has welcomed two new Jesuits to campus: Chaplain for Xavier Athletics Father Bill Murphy, S.J. and Jesuit Regent Matthew Zurcher.
Murphy acts as a pillar of support and accompaniment for Xavier’s student athletes.
His position as athletic chaplain is a new position for Xavier but not for other Jesuit universities.
“In Jesuit schools, athletes have had structures of spiritual support for a long, long time, and I’m just continuing that tradition,” Murphy said.
Murphy just celebrated his Silver Jubilee, or his 25th year of being a Jesuit, and his 14th year since his ordination into the priesthood. From early on, Murphy felt drawn to the Jesuit values, especially that of Magis, which inspires a spirit of zeal and commitment.
Murphy recounted his pull toward this community: “I chose the Jesuits because I love the mission, the ways in which Jesuits bring the message of God’s love to the people we serve.”
He grew up in East Lansing, Mich. and completed his undergraduate education at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. He also earned his masters of divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.
Murphy is very familiar with working with students, having many years of experience working as a teacher and administrator at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, as well as serving as the president for Saint Ignatius Jesuit High School in Cleveland.
Just before coming to Xavier, Murphy worked on the Midwest Jesuit Province’s vocations team, where he provided guidance for those considering becoming Jesuit brothers and priests.
Murphy’s office in the Heidt Family Champions Center allows him to easily give athletes counsel, attend their games and practices and supply them with a variety of baked goods. He hopes to ease their stress and provide them with a strong sense of Ignatian wisdom and community.
“Sometimes student athletes just need to talk to somebody who’s outside of the authority structure and doesn’t control their playing time,” he said.
One of the most foundational parts of his position, he believes, is simply praying for the student athletes.
“If I’m not praying for them,” Murphy said, “then how am I going to care for them?”
While Murphy has been immersed in the priesthood for many years now, Matthew Zurcher is currently completing his Jesuit regency, which is one of the five stages of Jesuit formation.
Zurcher works in the Center for Faith and Justice in the Gallagher Student Center, where he helps with Catholic retreats, teaches first year Core classes and serves as another source of support here on campus. In addition to working toward ordination, he hopes to teach courses regarding Ignatian spirituality in the future.
Zurcher was born and raised in western Pennsylvania and attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for his undergraduate education. As a young man studying and pursuing arts and humanities, the idea of becoming a Jesuit was far from Zurcher’s mind.
“I did not go to church at that time and wanted nothing to do with it,” Zurcher said.
However, his attitude shifted when he got the opportunity for a unique job position.
“I ended up running halfway houses, and through doing that work and living with and being close to people who were suffering, I was drawn back to spirituality,” Zurcher said.
He has had a wide range of job experiences, both within the Jesuit community and outside of it, working as a school bus driver, high school English teacher, choral conductor and prison chaplain.
Zurcher has since completed his masters degree in social philosophy at Loyola University Chicago as well. When asked about his whirlwind of past experiences, he explained how they have greatly shaped his perspective and strengthened his faith.
“The diverse blessing of jobs that I have had allows me to really be able to look at all of you with a great deal of hope,” Zurcher said. “And I think, ‘Man, you have no idea how cool life can be when you just let go and follow your heart.’”
Both new faculty members have expressed their excitement regarding the community here at Xavier. When beginning the shift from his last job to this one, Murphy was heartened by the attitude of the students and staff.
“The kindness of the people at Xavier, from the time I began talking to them until now, has been incredible. Almost overwhelming,” he said.
Zurcher, too, feels moved by the students he works with every day.
“My favorite thing so far is when people just pop in, and we can talk about how life is going, what is exciting them, what they’re struggling with or working through,” he said. “I’m hoping that that will continue and that my door will just stay open.”