Loretto Sister Dunphy served 66 years

Julie Filby

Colorado native Sister Carol Dunphy, 92, a Sister of Loretto at the Foot of the Cross for 66 years, died Feb. 19 at the order’s motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky.

Sister Dunphy helped establish Loretto’s first mission in South America. She also served in the Archdiocese of Denver for more than 25 years, primarily as an administrative assistant at the order’s central office in Denver from 1982 to 2002. She also served with the Vietnamese Resettlement Committee of Denver Catholic Community Services from 1973 to 1975, as a secretary to the Colorado Catholic Conference in 1976, and social advocate on the sisters’ central staff from 1980 to 1982.

Sister Carol retired to the Motherhouse Infirmary in Nerinx in 2003, where she resided until her death. There she was resident electrician, engineer, plumber and carpenter.

“With her own fix-it tools, Sister Carol could repair leaky faucets, crumbling stairs, VCRs and practically any other piece of equipment that went on the blink,” according to a statement from the order. “Her calm capability made her unflappable in emergencies. (She was) a Denver Broncos fan, she also loved the outdoors.”

Carol Mae Dunphy was born March 12, 1922, in Eastlake, Colo., the first of four children to Arthur John and Edith Louise (Molholm) Dunphy. After graduating from high school in 1940 she attended business college, then in 1943 she joined the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and worked in a Navy communications offices in San Francisco and Pearl Harbor.

She was discharged in December 1945 and attended Webster College (now University) in Webster Groves, Mo. In 1949, she entered the Sisters of Loretto, the same congregation her younger sister, Lois, had entered in 1941. She was received into the order Dec. 8, 1949, taking the name Sister Peter Michael. She made her first vows in 1951 and her final vows in 1955.

Sister Dunphy earned a bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in Spanish and education, from Webster College in 1952, a master’s in English from the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 1959, and a master’s in community development from the University of Louisville in 1970.

From 1952 to 1957, she taught at Nerinx Hall High School in Webster Groves then as director of St. Joseph Residence Hall at Loretto Heights College in Denver from 1957 to 1959, before being appointed superior and principal at Bishop Toolen High School, Mobile, Ala.

In 1960, she was the congregation’s first superior of its mission to La Paz, Bolivia. In 1962, she became regional superior for all Loretto missions in South America. In 1963, she was named principal of Colegio Loreto in La Paz.

Sister Carol returned to the United States in 1967 to teach at Loretto High School in Louisville, Ky. and was principal from 1971 to 1973. In the Archdiocese of Louisville, she was administrative assistant to the Senate of Religious from 1973 to 1975.

A funeral Mass was celebrated for Sister Dunphy Feb. 24 at the Church of the Seven Dolors at the motherhouse and she was buried at Loretto Motherhouse Cemetery. She is survived by two sisters, Loretto Sister Lois Dunphy of Nerinx, and Phyllis Brachle of Denver. Memorials may be sent to the Loretto Development Office, 4000 S. Wadsworth Blvd., Littleton, CO 80123.

COMING UP: 500 years later, who was Luther?

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Hero, villain, heretic, saint, reformer, corrupter, man of integrity, bombastic glutton. Which image of Luther should we believe? Because Luther primarily sought not to reform abuses in the Church but to reform the Church’s beliefs, Catholics cannot recognize him as a true reformer or a holy man. Nonetheless, it is widely agreed that Luther played a major role in shaping the modern world. With the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant movement he initiated approaching on October 31st, we have been given a number of new books to assess his legacy.

Paul Hacker, Luther’s Faith: Martin Luther and the Origin of Anthropocentric Religion, preface by Pope Benedict XVI (Emmaus, 2017).

Hacker’s book provides an in-depth, theological analysis of the issue that stands at the heart of the Reformation: Luther’s teaching on salvation by faith alone. Pope Benedict’s preface tells us that the Reformation dispute fundamentally concerned Luther’s “turning away from the center of the Gospel” (xxii). Emmaus released a new edition of Hacker’s book for the anniversary this year. It was published originally in 1970 (in English translation), the fruit of Hacker’s own intense study of Luther’s teaching on faith that led him into the Catholic Church from German Lutheranism.

Catholics agree with Protestants that salvation comes only through faith. The key issue of dispute, which Hacker reveals, is Luther’s subjective emphasis of absolute, personal certainty, which cannot be undermined even by serious sin. Hacker describes Luther’s faith as reflexive, that is turned back on oneself, by emphasizing subjective experience and personal surety more than anything else. He describes how Luther differs from the Catholic position: “Faith is the way to, or the perquisite of, salvation, but Luther makes it coincide with salvation itself. This becomes possible because he has first identified salvation with the consciousness of being saved or the certitude of salvation, and then he equates this consciousness with faith” (71). Hacker shows us how this view of faith negated the Church’s authority, the sacraments, and even the need to love God.

Brad Gregory, Rebel in the Ranks: Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the Conflicts that Continue to Shape Our World (HarperOne, 2017).

For those looking for a more general and accessible book, Brad Gregory gives us a broader narrative of how Luther’s troubled conscience exploded into the crisis that tore Christendom in two. The first section looks at Luther’s own story, tracing step by step his conflict with Church authority. The second section explains how Luther’s teaching spawned a multitude of new sects and divisions, all interpreting the Bible in their own fashion. Greggory explains: “What the early Reformation shows so clearly is that scripture and the Spirt can be interpreted and applied in radically divergent ways. Once the papacy and the Catholic Church are thrown off, there are no shared authorities to adjudicate disagreements” (137). The final section looks at how the Reformation set the tone for the development of a secular culture. Though not intending these consequences, Gregory argues that the Protestant Reformers “led indirectly to a profound diminishing of Christianity’s public influence in Western societies. The religious disagreements and conflicts that followed the Reformation set the stage for religion’s eventual separation from the rest of life” (2).

Eric Metaxas, Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World (Viking, 2017).

Metaxas, who wrote a monumental biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, provides us with a different perspective on Luther. His book seems poised to capture the largest audience for the anniversary this year. While I can’t agree with his view of Luther as a hero of faith, I can appreciate his presentation of a more sympathetic and thorough look at a man who has inspired many Protestant Christians. It is helpful to recognize why Luther is such an important figure for so many people. This book definitely provides many more details on the life of Luther (with over 450 pages). However, I would exercise caution, because it unfortunately also contains many gross misrepresentations of the state of the Church at the time of the Reformation.

For instance, even though Metaxas shows us many ways that Luther encountered the Bible in his early life, he still claims that the Bible and Church had no connection in the early 1500s and that “the study of the Bible per se was simply unheard of” (52). Luther himself was a theology professor and throughout the Middle Ages the Bible was the primary text for teaching theology. Brad Gregory makes clear in his book on Luther that there were even “twenty-two editions of the complete vernacular Bible . . . published in German . . . by 1518” (29). Metaxas presents a false picture of Catholics as ignorant, afraid to pray to Christ, and thinking they must earn their salvation through works. Good historical research could easily dispel these myths, such as the books of Eamon Duffy, but we see Protestants continue to project Luther’s own scruples (hating God and spending six hours in Confession, 47) onto the Church of his time.

Jerome K. Williams, True Reformers: Saints of the Catholic Reformation (Augustine Institute, 2017).

What could have Luther been if he had chosen faithful reform? The answer is a saint. There is no doubt that the Church was in need of serious reform in the 1500s. We have a number of great saints who show us that fidelity to God does not contradict fidelity to His Church. They stood against corruption and initiated deep and abiding reform. The Augustine Institute has release both a book and video series on true reformers, who boldly spoke out against abuses and led to a deeper realization of the truth found in the Bible, read in harmony with the Church. These figures—Teresa of Avila, Thomas More, Ignatius of Loyola, and Charles Borromeo, for instance—continue to inspire us to take up the task of genuine reform today.