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Community remembers fifth-year student

Sarah Mervosh | Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Xavier Murphy, a fifth-year student and former resident of Zahm Hall, died Tuesday after a short battle with cancer. He was 22.

Zahm Rector Corry Colonna said he and Murphy both joined Zahm in 2007 and got to know each other well during Murphy’s four years in the dorm.

“He had an amazing energy about him, always so positive. He greeted everyone with a big smile,” Colonna said. “He was soft-spoken but confident and always respectful.  He had a sensitivity about him that attracted others to him.”

Murphy was diagnosed with leukemia exactly one month before he died. He developed pneumonia over the weekend.

Murphy, who is from Anderson, Ind., graduated with a degree in political science with the class of 2011, but was on campus this semester to finish one class and intern with the football team.

“It is so very hard to imagine that energetic person is now passed,” Colonna said. “As a person of such energy, of good faith, and kindness will be how we remember him.”

Murphy’s mother, Marcia Murphy, said her son was a quiet, private person, but the time since his diagnosis allowed her to see a different side of him.

“He did begin to open up more and share and tell us things like he never would,” she said. “That very first day, I’ll never forget how he said, ‘I’m just so scared.’ That was so un-Xavier to open up that way.”

But throughout his battle with cancer, his mother said Murphy rarely complained. Instead, during one of his most painful days, Marcia said Murphy comforted her when she cried.

“It’s really weird because he got this big smile, and he did have a beautiful smile, and said, ‘Why are you crying, mom?'” Marcia said. “And I said, ‘Because it is so hard to watch you suffer.’ He took my head in his hands and said, ‘It’s okay, I’m going to be okay.’

“He didn’t fight it. He wasn’t afraid. He comforted me in his suffering.”

Murphy’s father, David, also remembers Murphy’s ability to comfort those around him.

“He was a gentleman in the sense that he didn’t want people around him to feel badly about themselves [or] to feel sad,” David said. “He was a lovely guy who is going to leave such a huge impact on all of us.”

His parents also said Murphy embraced God during his last few weeks, and asked for confession before he died.

David said Murphy loved Notre Dame and his time living in Zahm.

“He loved the family he found at Notre Dame,” David said. “He loved Zahm. He loved that place and those boys were his brothers … They have been so loving and supportive, and it has meant a lot to our family.”

Murphy’s younger brother, Julian, also attends the University.

Zahm celebrated a Mass in honor of Murphy on Tuesday in the dorm’s chapel, followed by a walk to the Grotto.

Over 150 students processed into the Grotto with candles, and many members of the crowd raised their arms in an “X” above their heads to honor Murphy.

Murphy served as one of the three senior football managers last year and was interning with the football team this year.

Head Football Equipment Manager Ryan Grooms called Murphy trustworthy and loyal.

“Immediately, he’s one of those kids you kind of fall in love with,” he said. “He had one of those attitudes and personalities that just kind of lights up the rooms and brings happiness to everybody around you.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins said in a statement Murphy will be missed by the Notre Dame community.

“Our prayers and condolences go out to Xavier’s family and friends,” Jenkins said. “By all accounts he was an exceptional and greatly loved young man who will be deeply missed.”

Prior to Murphy’s passing, Zahm had planned events to support Murphy and raise awareness for cancer patients. Colonna said he hopes to continue with the events.

He said Zahm hopes to hold a “Raise an X for X” campaign during the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game Oct. 29, which would have been Murphy’s 23rd birthday. However, Colonna said he wants to get permission from the Murphy family before moving forward with the event.

The campaign would ask the student body to stand and make an “X” with their arms over their heads, mimicking the symbol residents of Zahm traditionally make during the Celtic chant.

“X isn’t just for Xavier, it is for us, but it can be a variable for anyone who is fighting cancer,” Colonna said.

Zahm would also sell red T-shirts and bandanas to raise money and awareness for those battling cancer.

As part of his leukemia treatment, Murphy needed to receive frequent blood transfusions. Colonna said Zahm will hold a blood drive Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the LaFortune Ballroom.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated for Murphy on Saturday at 11 a.m. The location is not set yet, but will be in one of two churches near Murphy’s hometown.

Douglas Farmer and Megan Doyle contributed to this report.