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Most Rev. P. Francis Murphy

Deceased: 1999-09-02


Seminary Graduation Year: 1959

Philip Francis (Frank) Murphy was born on March 25, 1933 in Cumberland, Maryland to Philip A. and Kathleen E. (Huth) Murphy. He attended St. Mary’s School in Cumberland and St. Charles High School and College in Catonsville. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He set sail from New York aboard the Andrea Doria in 1955, bound for Rome and the further study of theology.

Frank was ordained a priest by the Most Reverend Martin J. O’Connor, D.D. in the North American Chapel in Rome on December 20, 1958. In 1959 he completed his studies, receiving a License in Sacred Theology degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He returned to Baltimore shortly thereafter and was appointed Associate Pastor of St. Bernardine Parish in Baltimore with additional duties as Vocation Director at Mt. St. Joseph High School. He returned again to Rome in 1961 and served at the North American College as Assistant Vice Rector. A favorite memory of his from those years was of standing in St. Peter’s Square on October 11, 1963 at the opening of the Second Vatican Council. In 1965 he was appointed Papal Chamberlain with the title of Very Reverend Monsignor. He was also appointed Priest Secretary to Lawrence Cardinal Shehan, 12th Archbishop of Baltimore. In addition to his duties as Priest Secretary, he was named Vice Chancellor in 1968. He took on even more duties as Chancellor of Pastoral Concerns and Vicar for Personnel in 1971. During his time as Priest Secretary he assisted Cardinal Shehan with the implementation of the teachings and changes brought about by Vatican II. In particular, he focussed energy on issues related to race relations and ecumenical and interfaith affairs.

Other areas of service during this time included: Archdiocesan Consultor; Elected member, Senate of Priests; Advisory Board member, National Conference of Christians and Jews; Member, Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission; Chair, Archdiocesan Health Care Ministry Committee; Member Archdiocesan Finance Committee; Member, Clergy Education Committee; Director, Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men; Chair, Senate Sub-Committee to evaluate Parish Councils; Board member for Associated Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s Seminary, Catholic hospitals; and other organizations.

Monsignor Murphy was named Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Titular Bishop of Tacarata by Pope Paul VI in January 1976. He was ordained on February 29, 1976. He was also appointed Vicar General and Western Vicar.

As Auxiliary Bishop he made great efforts to improve relations between Catholics and Jews. He was Co-Chair of the Program Committee for the 9th Jewish/Christian Workshop in 1986, an event that had great significance and led to many new initiatives including the Baltimore Institute for Christian/Jewish Studies, for which he was a member of the Board of Trustees. He also served as a Board Member of The Interfaith Alliance, an organization of Christian and Jewish leaders from across the nation.

Bishop Murphy also worked hard over the years on social justice issues. He served on the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Women in the Church and in Society from 1978-1990 and is well known for his advocacy on this issue. In 1980, his initiative at the Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly led to the development of the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on nuclear weapons and world peace. In 1989 he co-founded Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland, Inc., an organization dedicated to developing safe and adequate housing for Western Maryland’s rural poor. For the past several years he has served as Interfaith Housing’s Chair of the Board.

At the same time, Bishop Murphy relished his pastoral role as Western Vicar to Catholics in Maryland’s western counties of Howard, Carroll, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett. He made countless visits to the parishes and people of Western Maryland, providing spiritual guidance and temporal assistance. Many Western Maryland Catholics were touched personally by Bishop Murphy’s ministry through baptism, confirmation, marriage, anointing the sick or through his preaching and sharing of the Eucharist. The Western Vicariate includes 38 parishes, four missions, 14 schools and a variety of organizations serving ministerial needs.

Other areas of service during this period were numerous, including: Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Doctrine Committee 1976-1979; Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Priestly Life & Ministry Committee 1976-1982; Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Research & Practices Committee 1976-1980; Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Vocations Committee 1977-1980; Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Women in Society and in the Church 1978-1990; Liaison, National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, 1976-1980; Advisor, National Association of Catholic Chaplains 1978-1981; Chair, Special Task Force on Priest Support Systems 1979; Member, National Advisory Committee of the Campaign for Human Development 1979-1982; Presenter of varium to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ General Assembly leading to the development of “The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response”; Chair, Archdiocesan Justice and Peace Commission 1980-1985; Member, National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Liaison Committee with the Conference of Major Superiors of Men 1983-1988; Member, Pax Christi USA 1981-1999; Member, Bread for the World 1985-1999; Member, Board of Directors of the National Catholic Office for Persons with Disabilities 1985-1992; Member, Board of Trustees of the Baltimore Institute for Christian/Jewish Studies 1987-1999; Co-founder, former President and Chair of the Board of Trustees of Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland, Inc.; Chair, Beyond the Boundaries: New Challenges of Faith in Metropolitan Baltimore 1997-1999; Liaison Archdiocesan Advisory Committee on AIDS Ministry; Liaison, Archdiocesan Advisory Committee on Deaf Ministry; Liaison, Coordinator for Charismatic Renewal; and Member, Maryland Catholic Conference.

Public recognition of Bishop Murphy’s work included: Andrew White Medal, Loyola College of Baltimore, 1983; Bene Merenti Medal, College of Notre Dame of Maryland, 1983; Distinguished Service Award, Washington Theological Union, 1995; and Doctor of Divinity, honoris causa, St. Mary’s Seminary and University, 1999. He became a 4th Degree of the Knights of Columbus in 1996.

Bishop Frank Murphy died at 7:50 a.m., Thursday, September 2, 1999 at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. He had been undergoing treatment for cancer since January 1999. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Wednesday, September 8, 1999 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. He was interred after the Mass in the cathedral crypt.