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Bill Murray’s sister a hit in one-woman play

By Catholic News Service and Florida Catholic Staff
February 18th, 2008
Catholic Online (

VENICE, Fla. (Catholic News Service) – There’s one more actor in the famed Murray clan that begat Oscar-nominated Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray: Their sister, Dominican Sister Nancy Murray, who does a one-woman show on St. Catherine of Siena.

Her most recent performances involved four shows in three parishes in the Diocese of Venice, Fla.
St. Catherine was a woman of her time but also a woman who transcended her time, according to Sister Nancy.
“In reading her letters, I found this feisty, spirited woman who was both affectionate and straightforward,” she told the Catholic Chronicle, Toledo’s diocesan newspaper.
“She would start a letter to a prostitute, for example, very formally, like, ‘I implore you in the name of Jesus Christ and his holy mother to act your age, take to heart what it means to be an example to young people.’ Then she’d write ‘You must not forget that you have a good heart,’ ending with a loving, warm affirmation,” Sister Nancy said.
It’s obvious she has an appreciation of her subject and for her subject’s hardships and her humanity.
Sister Nancy said more than 400 of the saint’s letters exist.
“Some are to her mother who’s complaining that none of her children — Catherine was the 24th of 25 — visit her. And some letters are to her brother, admonishing him for not visiting their mother. There were difficult issues in her life, too,” she said.

Life of Catherine

Catherine was born in Italy in 1347. As a child, she had a mystical experience in which she saw Jesus, St. Peter, St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist. Catherine decided to live her life for God as a consecrated virgin. From the age of 21 until her death at 33, she did charitable work for the sick and poor and followed the Third Order Rule of St. Dominic. She had other mystical experiences in her life and later received the stigmata.
Catherine is credited with convincing the pope to leave France and return to Rome in the late 1300s. She may be best remembered for “The Dialogues,” a collection of conversations she shared with God, as well as letters of wisdom she dictated for many people — including popes, princes, and religious men and women. Her writings are considered among the most brilliant in the church’s history.
Catherine was canonized in 1461. She was declared a doctor of the church in 1970. The title is given to select writers “whose tremendous erudition and insight have been of fundamental importance in the development of church learning,” according to Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Encyclopedia.
Sister Murray has presented the life of St. Catherine of Siena across the country, as well as in Rome, Trinidad, Australia, Scotland, South America, Asia and at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. She majored in drama at Barry University in Miami and earned a master’s degree in pastoral studies from Loyola University in Chicago. Sister Murray entered the Dominican order in Adrian, Mich., in 1966. She shares the life of St. Catherine of Siena to bring the saint’s message of hope, encouragement and love of God and neighbor to faithful across the world.

Across the nation, around the globe

Sister Nancy to date has done hundreds of performances across the country and even in foreign destinations such as the Philippines, East Timor, South Vietnam, Peru and Italy.
“Some Italian sisters have invited me to perform, saying, ‘We want to give this saint back to the youth of this country. They don’t have a clue about her,’“ Sister Nancy said.
“There is a personality here no one had told us about,” she said of St. Catherine. As they watch the play, “people have found in her this fire and spark, and it has resonated across the world,” she added.
It’s no surprise the energetic Sister Nancy could play the feisty saint to such acclaim. Indeed, being the oldest daughter in a large family sharpened her sense of the absurd, she said.
In her years as a religious Sister Nancy has had many jobs, including high school drama teacher, director of vocations and campus minister.
She entered the Dominicans in Adrian, Mich., in 1966 at age 18 and received her bachelor’s degree in theater from Barry University in Miami. Her master’s degree in pastoral studies is from Loyola University of Chicago, her home town.

Ongoing redemption

Combining love of theater and love of people with her spirituality is rewarding, Sister Nancy said.
“I always knew I had to do something that involved people, something with a lot of variety. I was 12 years old when I told my father I wanted to meet everyone in the world,” she said. “He told me, ‘Nance, you won’t like them all.’ And I told him that wouldn’t matter.”
Traveling the world to introduce St. Catherine to others has been a journey, she said. “People can have a stereotype of a sister’s life. This helps give them a realistic picture.”
Sister Nancy added, “We must not be afraid of the influences in the world. We have to believe that God continues to call individuals to himself and that he can work with it. He has redeemed the world, and that redemption is ongoing.”

(The Florida Catholic staff contributed to this article.)

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