We invite readers to send short stories about the ways in which their lives have been personally blessed by the life and work of priests and religious in our diocese.
By Karina Fabian
Father John Murray’s vocation has taken him around the world, but the thing he loves most is simply being a parish priest involved with the members of his community.
Father Murray was born in Butte, though he spent most of his childhood in Deer Lodge, attending St. Mary’s Academy Grade School and Powell County High School. After graduation, he attended Carroll College and Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. He was ordained in June 1963 in the first class of Bishop Raymond G. Hunthausen.
His first assignment was to St. Michael’s Parish in Conrad, where he stayed until 1968. Next, he taught theology at Butte Central where he also served as dean of discipline. While there, he worked for two years at Sacred Heart Parish and two at St. Ann’s Parish. From 1972 to 1982, he was co-pastor at Little Flower Parish in Browning. Next, he was pastor of St. William’s Parish in Shelby.
In 1989, he had the opportunity to take a sabbatical year abroad to study. He spent six months at St. George’s College in Jerusalem to study Scripture and six months near Dublin, Ireland, in the pastoral theological program.
He also indulged his love of travel by purchasing a round-the-world ticket and exploring Hawaii, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Philippines, Thailand, Germany and England. It was a terrific opportunity, he said, and one he wished more priests could have a chance to experience. Unfortunately, the shortage of priests means there aren’t enough priests to cover for each other any more.
When he returned to Montana, he became pastor of Anaconda Catholic Community, where he still is today. This is the job he loves: working with people in their joys and sorrows, teaching adult religious education and working with the young.
He thinks part of his love for serving others is a product of having grown up in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “In those days we were looking for ways to serve people. I thought being a priest was the most effective way to serve, especially in a spiritual manner. I still see that attitude in my parish. So many are willing to give themselves totally. It’s amazing, and an inspiration,’ he said.
One of his favorite duties is to teach lay people how to develop and participate in ministries within the Church. He said, “This is how we feel we are part of the Church and not that the Church is outside of us.”
He enjoys the beauty of Montana, skiing in the winter, white-water rafting and hiking when the weather warms.
And his love for travel? Last year, he visited Greenland – a place of incredible scenery, he said – and served as a chaplain on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean in April. What a chance to mix business and pleasure.
Published in The Montana Catholic, Vol. 23, No. 7, July 20, 2007.