Bill Murray’s Sister Portrays St. Catherine of Siena on Stage

Since 2000, Dominican Sister Nancy Murray has traveled around the world bringing to life St. Catherine of Siena.

(photo: YouTube screenshot)

There must have been a great deal of boisterous laughter and a bunch of corny jokes in Nancy Murray’s home when she was a child. Four of Nancy’s brothers demonstrated comedic talent that eventually earned them careers in show business: Brian (now known as Brian Doyle-Murray) is an actor, comedian and screenwriter who appeared in several films including Caddyshack, Scrooged, Ghostbusters II, Groundhog Day and The Razor’s Edge. Joel Murray has had prominent roles in popular television series including Mad Men, Grand, Love & War, and Dharma and Greg, and has had roles in several films including God Bless America and Monsters University. John Murray played important roles in Scrooged, Caddyshack and Moving Violations.

Perhaps the most amusing and best known of Nancy’s funny brothers was her brother Bill, who grew up to become an Emmy Award-winning actor, comedian, filmmaker and writer. Bill Murray rose to fame as part of the cast on Saturday Night Live, then starred in numerous comedy films including Meatballs, Caddyshack, Tootsie, Ghostbusters, What About Bob?, and Groundhog Day.

But amid the laughter in the Murray home, there was a strong emphasis on spirituality. Nancy’s Irish Catholic parents — Lucille, a mail-room clerk, and Edward Joseph Murray, a lumber salesman —  raised their nine children in the Catholic faith, taking them to Mass and enrolling them in Catholic schools.

Nancy Murray, like her brothers, was drawn to acting and production, so she studied theater at Barry University in the mid-1960s. But she was also attracted to religious life and eventually entered the Adrian Dominican Sisters in Adrian, Michigan. As a religious sister, she would live and pray in community.

For years, Sister Nancy taught at a school in Chicago. But when one of her drama teachers died, Nancy was invited to consider taking her place, playing the role of St. Catherine of Siena. It took some time before Sister Nancy was persuaded, but performing onstage has become her vocation — what she calls a “migrant ministry.” With simple props and a fertile imagination, Sister Nancy portrays Catherine as the colorful, strong, passionate and enthusiastic personality that she was.

Since 2000, Sister Nancy Murray has traveled all over America and around the world performing for schools, parishes and Catholic organizations, and bringing to life the Dominican saint, Catherine of Siena, the 14th-century Italian lay Dominican remembered for her service to the needy and the sick and for her letter-writing, which included a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI. St. Catherine successfully advocated for the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome, and called for political change in her native Italy. In 1970, she was the first woman to be named Doctor of the Church.

Sister Nancy Murray is best known for her portrayal of Saint Catherine, but she has also brought to the stage the story of Sister Dorothy Stang, a sister of  Notre Dame de Namur, and another play about Mary Potter, the founder of the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary. Information about Sister Nancy Murray’s performances is available at her website.

St. Catherine’s feast day is celebrated on April 29. She is the protectress against fire, sexual temptation, illness and miscarriages and the patroness of the United States, Italy, nurses and people ridiculed for their faith.