November 23, 1937 – May 3, 2023
Rev. John “Jack” E. Murray Jr., age 85, passed away May 3, 2023, in Butte, Montana. A beloved diocesan Catholic Priest for 60 years to the Diocese of Helena. A lifetime dedicated to the Lord serving the spiritual needs of all people.
Father Murray was born in Butte, Montana, on November 23, 1937, to parents, John Elmer Murray and Margaret O’Neill Murray. He was raised in Deer Lodge, Montana, graduating from Powell County High School. Jack attended Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington, and graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Montana, with a degree in Theology. He completed his priesthood vocational studies at Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1963.
Bishop Raymond G. Hunthausen ordained Father Murray on June 1,1963, at the Cathedral of Saint Helena. The following day Father Murray offered his first Mass at the Immaculate Conception Church, his childhood parish in Deer Lodge.
His first assignment was the summer of 1963 as Associate Pastor at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Butte. In July 1963, Father Murray was appointed Associate Pastor at St. Michael’s Parish in Conrad. He returned to Butte in August 1968 as Associate Pastor to Sacred Heart Parish. Later in July 1970 he was assigned Associate Pastor at St Ann Parish in Butte. From 1968 to 1970 he served on the Faculty Board of Butte Central Catholic High School.
His first Pastoral assignment was Little Flower Parish in Browning from 1972 until 1982. In July of 1982 he was assigned Pastor to St. William Parish in Shelby.
In August of 1988 Father did a sabbatical in Ireland for one year. Upon returning he served as Pastor at Anaconda Catholic Community. Father Murray remained in Anaconda from 1989 till entering Senior Status in July of 2008, he then returned to his family home in Deer Lodge.
Father Murray served on boards for the Diocese of Helena, the Carroll College Board of Directors, and many years on the Diocesan Priest Personnel Board. In Senior Status Father Murray substituted for many Priests in the diocese. He traveled from western Montana to North, South, East and West in all types of weather to serve as substitute. He was very concerned with the shortages of priests. He understood the value of time off from priestly duties, but, most importantly, ensuring the people received the cherished Bread of Life. Even while suffering poor health, Father Murray persisted in meeting the needs of the people.
Known as the “Hiking Priest” he climbed the mountains of Montana and the world. From his youth, Father Jack cherished the outdoors. Fishing, river rafting, hiking, camping, and biking were all activities he extracted the peace and strength found in nature with. Father selected the final resting place, his boyhood where he spent hiking Mount Powell located west of Deer Lodge. While selecting the site, Father Jack’s comment was “I could look at this view forever:”
With a passion for football, Father Murray intensely watched Notre Dame games. Best not to disturb his game days with phone calls or an unexpected drop in visit.
Father Murray led pilgrimages to the Holy Land, walking the St James Way Camino de Santiago, The Kerry Way of Ireland, the Andes of South America, the Himalayas and the Great Wall of China. During retirement he visited almost every continent while serving as a chaplain aboard cruise ships.
He was proceeded in death by his parents, Elmer and Margaret Murray of Deer Lodge, and a cousin, 1Lt. Daniel John O’Neill of Butte. He is survived by numerous cousins including Jean O’Neill Erickson of Ronan, Dr. William Brennick of Butte, Ellen Crowley of Vancouver, WA, Greg Murray of Bozeman, and Brent Murray of Great Falls.
Father Jack considered as family his fellow priests, deacons, and nuns all in union with their vocations and, most importantly, the cherished members of parishes he was ordained to serve.
A vigil service and Rosary will be held at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 11, 2023, at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, 605 Clark St., Deer Lodge, MT 59722. Viewing and visitation will begin at 12:00 p.m. on Friday May 12th followed by a Funeral Mass at 1:00 p.m. at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Deer Lodge. The Most Reverend Austin A. Vetter will celebrate the Mass, assisting will be Father Joseph P. Fleming. Rite of Committal will follow mass at Hillcrest Cemetery, W. Milwaukee Ave. in Deer Lodge. Following the interment, a reception will take place at St. Mary’s Center, 615 St. Marry’s Ave. in Deer Lodge.
In lieu of flowers, memorials in honor of Father Murray are suggested to Immaculate Conception Parish, PO Box 786, Deer Lodge, MT 59722, or to the Dioceses of Helena, “Priest Retirement Fund” written in the memo, 630 N. Last Chance Gulch, Helena, MT 59601, or to a Catholic Church parish of the donor’s choice.