Digital library celebrates achievements of Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy

EVERETT — It took an extraordinary effort to archive an extraordinary life.

A virtual library celebrating the achievements of Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy now is considered complete. The archbishop’s nephew, Brian Murphy, spent 1,300 hours on the project.

The archive first went live Oct. 3, the late archbishop’s birthday. Since then, Brian Murphy has added more than 200 new documents, digitized from the Archdiocese of Seattle’s collection.

The archive is posted to Archbishop Murphy High School’s website, at Much of it focuses on the writings of Murphy, who served as archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle from 1991 until 1997.

The archive has four components: an interactive timeline, a collection of documents, an interactive coat of arms and a brief biography.

The timeline marks 84 milestones in Murphy’s life. It starts with a photo from 1908, when Murphy’s parents, Bartholomew and Ellen, came to the U.S. from Ireland. It ends with Murphy’s funeral Mass in 1997.

Murphy was beloved at the high school and visited there while battling cancer. Students held a blood drive in his honor.

More than 1,100 of the archbishop’s writings are available. More than 500 are columns he wrote for Catholic newspapers in Montana and Seattle. The columns had to be manually retyped from yellowed newspapers and microfiche. The oldest is from 1978.

“He was a prolific writer throughout his life,” said Brian Murphy, now 49.

One of his uncle’s best skills was the ability to cover meaty issues in a way that anyone could understand, he said.

His uncle baptized him, gave him his first communion, and oversaw his confirmation as a Catholic. As a teenager, he accompanied his uncle to Rome, where the newly named archbishop received the pallium, a stole marking his position in the church.

Even in the later years of his life, the archbishop loved technology and travel, and would have been excited to own a smartphone, Brian Murphy said.

He credits school leaders with supporting the archive and honoring his uncle’s legacy and ministry.

The archbishop deeply believed that connecting with young people was vital to the future of the church, Brian Murphy said. A high school was a fitting namesake, he said.

The school’s archive is a “tremendous service” to the entire Archdiocese of Seattle, spokesman Greg Magnoni said Friday.

“We just can’t thank them enough for all the work they did on that,” he said. “It pools the historical documents of an era together.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449;

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