Bishop P. Francis Murphy

March 25, 1933-September 2, 1999

Ordained: December 20, 1958
Ordained Bishop: February 29, 1976

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, and received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. In 1955, Bishop Murphy set sail from New York aboard the Andrea Doria, 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 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. Bishop Murphy 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 focused energy on issues related to race relations and ecumenical and interfaith affairs.

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 had served as Interfaith Housing’s Chair of the Board.

Bishop Frank Murphy died at 7:50 am, on 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, at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. He was interred after the Mass in the cathedral crypt.

Bishop Murphy worked for the transformation of society and the church, from the very direct production of affordable housing to public policy advocacy for the hungry, peace, women’s rights in the church, and for interfaith and ecumenical collaboration for social justice. The Murphy Initiative has an agenda as broad and wide as the scope and scale of its namesake, P. Francis Murphy, who was called a first generation bishop of Vatican II.

Frank Murphy was a tireless advocate for peace and nonviolent resolution of conflict. His 1980 proposal to take a fresh look at the morality of nuclear weapons led to the U.S. Bishops’ landmark 1983 peace pastoral.

Today, his prophetic voice lives on in organizations like the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose courageous statements against violence and war stand out as a beacon challenging the Church to preserve in its works for peace.