Peter Murphy has been deeply moved by the outpouring of love and appreciation he has received since announcing his decision to retire next month due to ill health.
Mr Murphy is the Pastoral Care Co-ordinator at MacKillop College. He has taught at the school for the past 24 years.
For the past 15 years he has been something of a medical anomaly as he refused to give in to the cancer that ravaged his body.
He said during that time he has received incredible support from his family, the school community, and the wider Bathurst community.
Along with his faith, and positive attitude, these were the things that kept him going.
Heartbreakingly, the cancer has now spread to his liver, his pelvis and his lungs.
Mr Murphy was first diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2001. Around the time he had his first radical surgery, his daughter was just three months old. He didn’t think he would live to see her start high school.
Aisling is currently in Year 9 at her dad’s school.
“My aim now is to see her graduate, but that will be a bit harder, I think,” he said softly.
Mr Murphy also has a son Seamus, who is a Year 12 student at St Stanislaus’ College.
“My illness has placed a great strain on my family,” he said.
Mr Murphy’s role at MacKillop College has been to look after the welfare and well-being of the students, and liaising with their parents.
He arrived in Bathurst in 1992 and started work as the religious education co-ordinator. Mr Murphy moved into his new role in 2003.
Mr Murphy came to Bathurst from St Clare’s in Waverley because he was born in Forbes and wanted to move back to the country.
He began his career in 1979 as a primary school teacher in Nyngan.
“I went into teaching because I wanted to help people and I really enjoyed my own school days,” Mr Murphy said.
After Nyngan he taught secondary school at Red Bend in Forbes for five years, spent a year in Perth at John XXIII, then moved to Sydney, where he taught at Christian Bros in Balmain.
A couple of years ago Mr Murphy was immensely proud to receive a National Excellence in Teaching Award.
He said throughout his career he has tried to instil in his students the importance of always telling the truth, regardless of the question, and to follow the teachings of the prophet Micah – to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.
“I try to live by that and encourage the girls to do the same,” Mr Murphy said.
“I also try to live quietly in a positive manner. I try, but I don’t always succeed,” he smiled.
Mr Murphy said he has really enjoyed the role he has played at the school.
“I have found that if kids are misbehaving. it’s often because there is something going on at home,” he said. “If you ask the right questions you can usually get to the heart of the matter.”
During his time at MacKillop, Mr Murphy has also played a significant role in the lives of the boarders and made many life-long friends among them and their parents.
Since announcing his retirement he has been deeply moved by the number of former students and parents who have sent cards and letters.
“It’s incredible to think they would put so much time and thought into it, and then take the trouble to send it,” Mr Murphy said.
“These are the things that keep you going.”
One parent relayed to him how much she valued the fact that he always had a kind and encouraging word for their daughter, often when it was most needed.
“Thank you so much Peter for looking out for our girl – it’s not easy having a child live so far away but always reassuring to know there are good people such as yourself for her to turn to,” the student’s mum wrote.
Another spoke of how much Mr Murphy would be missed by his students.
“The years of dedication, professionalism and genuine care and concern you have given to the whole MacKillop community, students, colleagues and parents, is really appreciated.”
Mr Murphy said he was very proud of all the students who have passed through the school – the ones who have gone on to study medicine and law and the ones who do great things in their community, or are performing volunteer work overseas.
“It is wonderful to see them take the values they have learned at MacKillop and put them into practice,” he said.