COMMUNITY • BY JULIE WIATT
Bill Murphy’s life course shifted when he took in a homeless man to share his dorm room in a Catholic college in Worcester.
Bill says he considered himself a good Catholic, always going to mass, studying the gospels, but had been wondering how to put the exhortations he heard from sermons into action. He wondered, “What would Jesus do?’
When a homeless man asked for a quarter, Bill gave him a dollar. Bill talked with him, and watched how passersby treated the man with contempt, ignoring, insulting and even spitting at him for begging. When it became clear the man had nowhere to stay, Bill took him in.
The school disagreed with this interpretation of the scriptures. The dean, unable to dissuade Bill, called his parents and referred him for psychiatric counseling, calling him a “religious fanatic.” His parents were asked to pick Bill up in three days.
So instead of going to Harvard business school as planned, Bill took a year off. He left Worcester because his folks were so angry with him. He took a bus to Washington DC, and joined with the Center for Creative Non-Violence to help the homeless.
He met and married his wife Sharon, who shares his passionate empathy for the homeless. Together, they started their nonprofit, Mary House, through which they have sheltered thousands of homeless people and helped them reach their full potential of productive lives. Bill builds, maintains buildings and fundraises. “He holds up the piece that makes sure the rest exists,” says Sharon.
Featured photo: Sharon and Bill Murphy at Capital City Cheesecake, their daughters’ cafe. Photo by Julie Wiatt.