Société des Missions Africaines –Province des Etats-Unis

MURRAY Sylvester né le 29 avril 1929 à Boston
dans le diocèse de Boston, USA
membre permanent de la SMA le 31 mai 1955
prêtre le 4 février 1956
décédé le 17 mai 1996

1956-1959 Augusta, Géorgie, paroisse de l’Immaculée Conception
1959-1961 Dedham, séminaire
1961-1966 responsable des vocations
1966-1996 Tenafly, New Jersey, 
1966-1968, responsable des vocations
1968-1973, supérieur local
1973-1978, animation
1978-1983, vice provincial
1983-1989, supérieur local
1989-1995, supérieur provincial
1995-1996, retiré

décédé à Englewood, USA, le 17 mai 1996,
à l'âge de 67 ans

Father Sylvester John Murray (1929 - 1996)

John Sylvester Murray was born in Charlestown, MA, USA, in the parish of St. Peter’s Dorchester, on April 29, 1929.
He died at Inglemoor Convalescent Center, Englewood, NJ, USA, on May 17, 1996.

S. John Murray (within the Society he was given this full title to distinguish him from his contemporary John F. Murray) was the second of four children born to Declan Joseph and Margaret Mary (nee Fitzgerald) Murray. Declan had come to Boston from Co Waterford, Ireland, in 1924 while his mother was also Irish-born. They resided at 32 Ditson St., Dorchester. John attended the John Marshall Grade School, Dorchester, Grover Cleveland Junior High and Dorchester High School, graduating in 1945. After school, like his younger brother James F., John was inclined towards a career in the army. In February 1947 he joined the US Marine Corps (Reserve), attaining the rank of Corporal. He was honourably discharged in September 1950, the month in which he decided to pursue an altogether different kind of service. He had decided to become a missionary priest and entered Queen of Apostles Seminary, Dedham, MA, where he did his novitiate and studied philosophy. John received his theological training at the Catholic University, Washington DC. He was received as a member of the Society on June 28, 1952 and was ordained a priest by Bishop John M. McNamara at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC, on February 4, 1956. He was one of three SMA’s ordained on that day, the other two being Milton C. (Clarke) Yates and William W. Toland. He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at St. Ambrose’s church, Dorchester, on February 12, 1956.

After ordination John was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish, Augusta, GA - an African-American parish which had been founded by the SMA in 1908 - serving there until August 1958. In May of the following year he received a letter from the Provincial, P.J. O'Donoghue containing (in the latter’s words) an ‘unpleasant surprise’. The teaching staff of Queen of Apostles Seminary in Dedham was shorthanded and John was needed. John spent the next year teaching in Dedham. He then was sent to Washington DC when he studied Library Science at the Catholic University. Next he was appointed to Dedham as Vocations Director. In this work he was particularly successful and knowledgeable. In August 1966 John’s suggestion to the administration that the headquarters of the Vocations Director should be moved to Tenafly was approved and he supervised the transfer during the following months. In July 1968 John was appointed superior of Tenafly, seat of the Provincial Administration, which had a chapel open to the public and which housed sick and retired Fathers. Five years later he became Director of promotion activities at Tenafly and Operations Manager of the Central Office. At the Provincial Assembly of 1978 John was elected Vice-Provincial. In the last year of his term, 1982, he returned to studies, attending Immaculate Conception Seminary, Newark, NJ, where he was awarded a Master’s degree in Divinity on June 5th. After the next Assembly, held in 1983, John was appointed Superior of Tenafly. Finally, in 1989, testimony to his wide experience of administration and the high regard in which he was held by his confreres, John was elected Provincial Superior.

Shortly after being elected Provincial, civil war broke out in Liberia and John led the Province in responding to the people’s suffering by establishing an SMA team to work with the Liberian refugees in the border town of Danane, in the Ivory Coast. The war continued on throughout his term of office. John kept in close touch with events as they unfolded, maintaining daily contact with the Fathers in the field. In 1990 and again in 1994 he visited Liberia where thirty priests of the Province were deployed. John kept Liberia’s plight firmly in the public eye through a variety of methods, including the organizing of supplies which were shipped to the beleaguered Liberians.

John completed his term as Provincial in 1995, the year in which he fell ill with cancer. Unable to speak after surgery, he would often put his thoughts down on paper. On one occasion he wrote that his illness had given him a greater appreciation for the communion of saints. In his last month he moved slowly inward and communicated less and less.

John’s sister, Rita Murray became Sister Mary Joseph Bernadette in the Order of St. Francis, based at Mount Alvernia, Newtown, MA, later in St Mary of the Hills, Milton, MA – a distinguished teacher and photographer.

He is buried in the SMA Community plot at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Tenafly, NJ, USA.