Mary Murray, a 2015 graduate of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, describes her journey of faith as a “pothole-filled road.” The road included two major detours: getting her master’s degree in theology and becoming a high school theology teacher.
In her twenties, Mary obtained a BA in political science from Oakland University and a master of public policy from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She married her husband, Tom, and worked in both nonprofit and government sectors.
After the birth of their first daughter, Mary and Tom decided she would leave the workforce to be home with their daughter. Over the next ten years, they had three more daughters.
“We both always wanted children and I was grateful to have the option to stay home,” said Mary. “My husband should be commended for surviving through the phases of Polly Pockets, princess movies, and now, the teenage years with our four beautiful girls.”
Though Mary was grateful to be at home with her children, she struggled with her vocation. She missed being with colleagues in the professional world, and she craved intellectual stimulation beyond her daughters’ Veggie Tales. Mary began to feel guilty for wanting more when she knew in her heart this was God’s will for her at this stage in life.
“I thought, ‘What’s wrong with me? I should be content and grateful for the gift of motherhood and with these beautiful children and relish every minute with them.’” Mary said. “In this struggle, I began to turn to God and ask for his guidance and help. I began to ask, ‘What else, God?’”
As Mary continued praying and listening for God’s answer, Mary and Tom became more convicted in their Catholic faith. They moved to Troy and became friends with their new pastor, Father John Riccardo.
“Father John challenged us, both intellectually and spiritually, to live out our call to be disciples of Christ. He also showed us love and acceptance and patience in this season of growth and introduced us to other families who were seriously pursuing their faith,” said Mary.
As Mary shared her recent struggles with her new friends, one of them asked her if she had ever thought about taking a class at Sacred Heart and teaching catechism. Mary had never considered returning to school, but the more she did, the more she realized this was an answer to her prayer.
She enrolled in one class at a time, which allowed her to be with her daughters during the day and attend class at night. Mary recalls meeting her husband on the front porch some evenings to hand off the baby in order to be on time for class.
“I couldn’t wait for class each week,” said Mary. “Pursuing this degree was certainly more of a sacrifice for Tom than for me—I loved almost every second. But thankfully, he supported me in this endeavor and as the girls got older, they too helped out on those seminary evenings.”
As Mary attended class, read the course materials, and completed her homework, she knew she was following God’s plan for her. He had opened her mind but also her heart by drawing her closer to him. She prayed with Scripture regularly and read voraciously about the lives of the saints.
While Mary was a student at Sacred Heart, a familiar face enrolled as well—her brother, now Father Steve Pullis, began and completed his priestly studies while she pursued her degree.
“It was a true joy to meet up with him for dinner occasionally, to see him in the halls, and to share some of our experiences of studying theology,” Mary said.
Mary taught catechism during this time and enjoyed sharing her enthusiasm for the faith with her students. God also nudged Tom and her to become more involved at their parish, Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak. They helped to begin Teams of Our Lady at the parish, an international lay movement designed to enrich marriage spiritually through increasing and improving a couple’s prayer life beside other couples.
After taking one class per semester at Sacred Heart for eight years, Mary graduated in 2015. She found herself returning to the question she posed to God years earlier: what else, God? Though her path was uncertain once again, she trusted God and stayed open and receptive to his next nudge.
She scoured the Archdiocese of Detroit’s job openings and applied to be a theology teacher at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills not expecting a response. When she was contacted for an interview, she went to adoration and prayed, “If you want me to do this, God, it has to be part-time.” Just as before, Mary wanted her family to come first.
The school offered her a part-time position, allowing her to be home in the mornings to get her girls off to school. Going back to work after being home for fifteen years was an adjustment, but again, the family came together so that Mary could follow the desire God had placed on her heart. She’s been teaching at Marian for six years.
“I love each and every one of my students 99% of the time,” Mary said. “I feel that having daughters has equipped me better to understand and love these teenage girls. I also believe that teaching has helped me grow as a mom. I see things a little differently being in a classroom and am grateful that these three vocations of mine—wife, mom, teacher—have brought me closer to God and also so much joy.”
When Mary and Tom were married nearly twenty-five years ago, she never imagined God would set her on this path or that she would so strongly desire to seek his path. She is grateful for the way he has both challenged her and blessed her.
“In the words of one of my favorites, St. Catherine of Siena, ‘Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire!’” Mary said. “I read this a while ago and continue to be so inspired by this challenge—for me and for everyone—to listen for and to God, who loves us beyond our comprehension . . . who speaks to our heart’s deepest desires . . . who wants to bring joy to our lives and who yearns to use us to bring his light to this world. God is good, all the time!”