23 April 2011

Death of former Columban Superior General, Fr Nicholas Murray

Please pray for the soul of Fr Nicholas Murray who worked in the Philippines for many years and died on Holy Thursday, eleven days after his 73rd birthday.  

St Columban's, Dalgan Park, where Fr Murray spent seven years as a seminarian and where he was living when he died.

Fr Nicholas Francis Murray (1938 - 2011)

Below is an obituary sent from Ireland. I knew Father Nick very well as the late superior general was in his sixth of seven years in the seminary when I entered in 1961. In 1983, when Father Nick was Regional Director of the Columbans in the Philippines, he asked me to be the first vocation director. The General Chapter of the Columbans in 1982 made the decision to invite young men from the countries where we served to join us. In 1984 Fr Bernard Cleary, an Australian, the Superior General at the time, appointed me, on the recommendation of Father Murray and his council, as director of the first group of young men to join the new Columban formation program in Cebu. Most were first year college students. I had to look for a house in Cebu but when Father Nick came down to help he found a suitable house within hours, through a friend he had there.

He was a very practical man, in a gracious and friendly way. He got things done and he got people working together. Not long after the Cebu programme started he and his council arranged for a long weekend meeting in Cebu with elected delegates from the Columbans in the different areas to discuss its future and to plan for it.

On the playing fields in the seminary Nick Murray, a big man in every sense of the word, played hard and played fair. As far as I can recall, he played hurling for his native County Galway, a great honour.

Above all, Father Nick was a missionary priest. For me he embodied all that is best in the Irish priest. He was prayerful, he was full of energy, he was focused and he was encouraging to those around him. He was able to make tough decisions and to take responsibility for them. He was a person you could trust your life with.

Nicholas (‘Nick’) Murray was born on 11 April 1938, in Ballymacward, County Galway, Ireland. He studied at Esker National School and St Joseph’s, Garbally Park, Ballinasloe, before going to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in September 1956. He was ordained priest on 21 December 1962. A natural athlete, he excelled at hurling, football and rugby during his days in Garbally and later in Dalgan.

Assigned to the Philippines in 1963, he spent the next twenty-two years working in some Luzon parishes, and later as Chaplain and Director of Student Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of Manila. His leadership skills and his capacity for administration were soon noted and he served in succession as a member of the Director’s Council in the Philippines, as District Superior of Luzon, as Vice-Director, and as Director of the Philippine Region 1981-1985. He was in office during the 'Negros Nine' case.

Assigned back to Ireland in 1985, he spent two years fostering vocations and was then appointed Director of the Irish Region. At the Society’s General Chapter in 1988, he was elected Superior General. He served for six years, and was then re-elected for a further term in 1994, something that had not happened since the early years of the Society. A man of great integrity, a hard worker, one who related easily with fellow-Columbans and others, Father Nick was never happier than when visiting the members in mission regions. In an era of great change, he brought stability, purpose, good humour and boundless energy to every task.

In 2000, after a brief sabbatical, he asked to be assigned to China. He completed a course in teaching English as a second language, and under the auspices of AITECE, was assigned for two years to Sichuan International Studies University in Chongqing. He made a big impression on his students and later described this work as 'an eminently worthwhile ministry'. In 2005 he spent some time helping out in his native Diocese of Clonfert. In 2008 he was diagnosed with a form of leukaemia. Over he past three years, as he endured all sorts of therapy and treatment, he used whatever energy he could muster to serve as bursar in Dalgan. He fought the good fight and did not complain. He died in St Francis Hospice, Raheny, on 21 April, Holy Thursday. May he rest in peace.


dgraney said...

May God rest the soul of Father Nicholas. He was a big, gentle man. As a native of Ballymacward, I remember Fr. Nick saying Mass in the parochial church from time to time and he had an engaging manner. As a member of the congregation, I was was always glad and humbled to hear about the foreign missions. My father drew turf and collected milk from the family home during the sixties. Although I was too young at the time to really appreciate what was happening, I can still feel the awe and wonder when Father Nick togged out for a game at Cunninghams's. Ar dheis De go raibh a ainm.


Fr Seán Coyle said...

Go raibh maith agat, a Dhéagláin. Beidh Aifreann ar son anama an Athar Nick in Eaglais Malate, Manila, Dé Céadaoin, 6 Bealtaine ag 6pm. There will be a Mass in the Columban parish, Malate, Manila, at 6pm on Wednesday 6 May.