Category: Archive

Msgr. Murray laid to rest

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

On Monday morning, the great doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral opened to receive Msgr. Murray’s remains in a coffin draped with the Stars and Stripes.
The coffin was met at the door by Cardinal Edward Egan as NYPD Emerald Society pipers played “Amazing Grace.”
Murray, whose family roots were in the Moy area of County Tyrone, died suddenly last week while attending a reception in honor of Gov. George Pataki’s mother, Margaret Lynch Pataki.
And it was Gov. Pataki who led the many tributes to the man who inspired the creation of the New York archdiocese immigrant aid group, Project Irish Outreach, and whose final days were spent working on behalf of immigrants as a member of the Irish government’s task force on emigration.
“Msgr. Murray devoted his life to others through his faith and love of people. We will miss him but we are grateful for the time we had with him,” Pataki said.
It was one of many tributes paid to the 76-year-old priest who served his country as a soldier in World War II and combined his study for the priesthood while working as a lawyer for the New York Crime Commission in the 1950s.
In a homily delivered by Msgr. Tom Leonard during Monday’s concelebrated funeral Mass, the chief celebrant of which was Cardinal Egan, Msgr. Murray was described by Msgr. Leonard at one point as “St. Vincent de Paul with a law degree.”
It was a fitting tribute to a priest who spent years leading the church’s efforts to make the material world easier to bear for those in want.
Murray, a onetime secretary to Cardinal Terence Cooke, served most notably as executive director of Catholic Charities in New York from 1973 until his retirement in 2000.
In the last two years he was director of pastoral care at the Mary Manning Walsh Home.
But even as his own health was failing, Murray took on the task of being a member of the Irish government’s task force that was charged with assessing and recommending government policy toward Irish people living around the world.
Murray made a number of transatlantic flights in his final months, usually accompanied by Irish radio broadcaster Adrian Flannelly, a fellow member of the task force and the man who worked most closely with Murray in the founding of Project Irish Outreach.
“We made 16 trips across the Atlantic and he traveled even when his health was very poor,” Flannelly said.
Flannelly said that it was Murray who had “made all things possible” with regard to the combined efforts of the archdiocese and Irish government on behalf of Irish immigrants.
“He was a great human being. He went as he lived. His death is a huge personal loss,” Flannelly said.
Murray’s work on behalf of Irish immigrants resulted in more than one initiative. It took its most public form with the founding of Project Irish Outreach in October 1987 and the setting up of an Irish Apostolate serving immigrants communities in various U.S. cities. Murray was also a pivotal figure in the setting up of immigrant working committees based at Irish consulates in U.S. cities.
The sum of this work prompted an effusive tribute to Murray delivered on behalf of the Irish Episcopal Conference and its Commission for Irish Emigrants.
Speaking on their behalf, the archbishop of Tuam, Most. Rev. Michael Neary, said that Murray would be missed as a great priest, a great American, a great Irishman, a great New Yorker and a great human being.
“We knew him best as a result of his practical care for Irish immigrants to the United States,” Neary said. “It was he who had the vision to see that they, too, had the needs of all young people far from home.”
Neary said that it was Murray who had made the case to the Irish government that it had a responsibility fund services for emigrants and had also persuaded the Irish bishops that chaplains were needed to help serve the spiritual needs of Irish immigrant communities.
“As a result, many thousands of young Irish men and women have been integrated in the United States and many a crisis solved,” Neary said.
Pat Hurley, a co-founder of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement, said that Murray’s death would be regretted by all.
“His work for Irish illegals was very greatly appreciated,” Hurley said.
Tom Conaghan, director of the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center in Philadelphia, said he had the greatest respect for Murray.
“He was a pioneer figure in setting up the immigrant advice centers,” Conaghan said.
Murray’s sudden death from a heart attack occurred Tuesday, Oct. 22, at the Madison Avenue studios of Adrian Flannelly’s Irish Radio Network USA.
According to Jack Irwin, Gov. Pataki’s official liaison to the Irish community, Murray had just entered the room when he collapsed.
“I had just advised the monsignor where he could hang up his coat,” Irwin said.
Emergency medical personnel called to the building were unable to revive Murray.
At Monday’s funeral Mass, Msgr. Leonard said that Murray had been both a priest and a politician who had always placed the welfare of people at the forefront of his thoughts and work.
Of his work with Project Irish Outreach, Leonard said that Murray had delivered stability, practical care, love, compassion, solace and hope to the undocumented Irish.
Patricia O’Callaghan, who has run the day-to-day operations of Project Irish Outreach since its founding, said that Murray had been unconditionally committed to the work of Project Irish Outreach.
“We will miss his keen interest, his strong dedication and sense of humor. As a result of his work, tens of thousands of Irish have been helped and will continue to be helped. The work goes on,” O’Callaghan said.
Msgr. Murray is survived by two sisters, May Houlihan of Bronxville, N.Y., and sister Mary Rose Murray, who is with the Ursuline Order in Rhinebeck N.Y. He is also survived by two brothers, John of Highlands, N.J., and Patrick of Smyrna, Del.

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