For diocesan and visiting clergy.
Mass of Christian Burial
Interment immediately following Mass at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
During the Great Depression in the mid-sized Michigan town of Jackson, James and Clare Murray welcomed their third son, James on July 5, 1932. His early years were spent playing baseball and running around with his two older brothers, Bill and Jack. He attended St. Mary Catholic Elementary school and was taught by the Sisters of Charity. Jim was naturally left-handed and was fond of retelling the story of the Sisters calling his mom to school concerned about this. She told them, “We know Jim’s a little off, but we like him that way.” And so he remained left-handed and was known throughout his life for his beautiful penmanship.
As evidenced by his St. Mary’s High School yearbook (which he served as editor), Jim excelled both academically and also participated in many extracurricular activities including baseball, boxing, the Glee Club, chairman of the Prom Committee and, not surprisingly, was elected Senior Class President at St. Mary High School. During those days he recounted that he had ideas of becoming a priest, but also entertained thoughts of being a doctor or a lawyer.
The calling to the Priesthood won out and Jim studied at Sacred Heart Seminary where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree and at St. John Seminary, Plymouth earning a Bachelor of Theology degree. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Lansing by Bishop Joseph H. Albers on June 7, 1958 at St. Mary Cathedral, Lansing. He celebrated his first Mass in his hometown of Jackson at St. Mary Parish and was assisted by long-time friend Fr. John Young who would later serve with him in the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Coincidentally, then Father Murray’s first pastoral assignment was to St. Joseph Parish, St. Joseph, Mich., which would become a part of the Diocese of Kalamazoo upon its founding in 1971. Father Murray served the people of St. Joseph from 1958 - 1961. He then became assistant pastor of St. Mary Cathedral in Lansing from June 1961 - September 1962. Upon his return from a two-year sabbatical at Catholic University of America, where he earned his Licentiate of Canon Law, he served as assistant pastor at two other parishes in Lansing: St. Therese, from June 1964 - August 1968 and St. Gerard from 1968 - 1973, before returning to St. Mary Cathedral in September 1973 as Rector. He also served as Chancellor for the Diocese of Lansing from 1968 - 1997 serving four bishops: Bishop Joseph Albers, Bishop Alexander Zaleski, Bishop Kenneth Povish, and Bishop Carl Mengeling. In addition, he served as Chaplain of the Lansing Police Department from 1972 - 1997.
He was beloved as the Chancellor, recounts his friend Father James O’Leary, which was a difficult feat. “The fact of the matter was the chancellors were almost always disliked. We were happy about his appointment because he was fair, wise, and without ambitions for promotion. I do believe that almost all the priests remember him fondly. For one in that position, that seems almost impossible.”
In 1993 Father Murray was named by Pope John Paul II as “Honorary Prelate,” and granted the title Monsignor. He had the occasion to meet Pope John Paul on a few occasions and was deeply inspired.
Despite his many administrative responsibilities, Msgr. Murray was famous for his dislike of meetings. He proudly formed the “no meeting council” which had one meeting, he explained, and that was to disband the council. He would also joke that he thought people in hell were forced to participate in small groups.
In late 1997, Msgr. Murray, approaching his late 60’s, was looking forward to retirement where he envisioned days spent sailing on his boat, “Innocence”, fishing and going on traveling adventures with his dear friends, Msgr. Robert Lunsford and Sister Joan Meerschart, and indulging his love of reading. However, God had other plans. Msgr. Murray was appointed the third bishop of the Diocese of Kalamazoo by Pope John Paul II and was installed on January 27, 1998 at St. Augustine Cathedral by Cardinal Adam Maida, Archbishop of Detroit. His sailing and fishing days would have to wait. However, as Bishop Murray recounted years later, “My entire seminary training taught there was only one answer when your Church asked you to do something, and that was ‘yes.’”
Bishop Murray chose as his episcopal motto, “Rejoice in the Lord Always” [Phil. 4:4] and he exemplified this by his warm and generous nature and also his expert teaching through his brilliant homilies. His motto also was aptly chosen as the title of his book, “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” (2001) a collection of his homilies delivered while Rector of St. Mary Cathedral, Lansing. Throughout his 11 years as Bishop he was known for his strong support of the Catholic schools as well as the ministry outreach to the growing Hispanic/Latino resident and migrant farmworker community and in 2006 released the “Diocesan Pastoral Plan for Hispanic Latino Ministry.” He approved the creation and implementation of the diocesan Trauma Recovery Program offered to all those who suffer from childhood trauma. Bishop Murray also contributed greatly to the work of the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), including his work as Advisor and author of MCC’s first assisted suicide education program (1993).
His greatest joy was celebrating the sacraments. During his time as Bishop of Kalamazoo he presided over 15 ordinations to the priesthood; ordained 28 men to the permanent diaconate; confirmed 14,394 young Catholics; honored more than 1,100 married couples with the “Golden Anniversary” diocesan Mass; dedicated 11 new churches and welcomed more than 3,100 new Catholics into the community through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) held each year during Easter Vigil Mass.
In March of 2009, Bishop Murray was overjoyed when 18 months after turning in his official letter of resignation to the Pope, required upon his 75th birthday, he received the news that Bishop Paul J. Bradley had been named his successor.
Now, finally able to retire at age 77, Bishop Murray quickly discovered that having the luxury of free time wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. He didn’t sail off into the sunset, but instead chose to stay in the Diocese as a trusted Bishop Emeritus to be around the people he described as “diverse, generous, reverent, and faithful.”
Throughout the past 11 years Bishop Murray enjoyed volunteering his time to hear confessions at Newman’s Bookshoppe on Friday afternoons and regaling diocesan staff with his engaging stories when he’d stop by the office to pick up his mail. As Bishop Emeritus he would be called upon to fill-in on occasion. Bishop Bradley offered his gratitude, “for his wonderful priestly example of providing pastoral assistance wherever and whenever he could, and for being such an exemplary priest and bishop of Jesus Christ.” He enjoyed time spent with family, especially his nephew Tim Murray, and getaways to his favorite spot, his cottage on Chippewa Lake.
To his devoted diocesan staff Bishop Murray was known for his no-nonsense approach and dislike for the spotlight. He was conveniently always out of town for his Ordination to the Priesthood Anniversary (June 7) as well as his birthday (July 5). However, in 2018, on the occasion of his 60th Priestly Anniversary, under the guise of an evening out with friends Laurie Tichvon, son Colin, and Msgr. Martin, he was surprised at his residence at the Fountains with a party attended by current and former diocesan staff members. At the sight of those waiting for him, he simply said, with his signature Irish twinkle in his eye, “You scoundrels.”
As he neared the end of his life and experienced a natural slowing down, Bishop Murray was fond of saying, “I’m ready, I don’t know what God’s waiting for.” However, in true faithful servant hood, he accepted God’s timing when he was called home on the morning of June 5, 2020, just two days shy of the 62nd Anniversary of his Priestly Ordination.
“May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
Well done, good and faithful servant. [Matt. 25:23]
The Most Reverend James A. Murray, 87, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Kalamazoo, passed away peacefully on Friday, June 5, 2020. Known as an incredibly kind and patient man with a wicked sense of humor and a heart that knew no bounds, his presence will surely be missed by his family, friends, and throughout his community. He was preceded in death by his parents, James and Clare; his brother, William, and sister-in-law, Mary Helen; his brother John, and sister-in-law, Donna; and his nephews, David Murray and Michael Murray. Surviving are his nieces and nephews: Tim Murray of Jackson, Mich., Mary Susan “Susie” (Phil) Fischmeister of Horton, Mich., Kellie Bailey of Fair Hope, Ala., Steven (Lauri) Murray of Royal Oak, Mich., Daniel (Trish) Murray of Livonia, Mich., Shellie (Randy) Lagow of Parma, Mich., and Synthia (Tom) Levy of Jackson, Mich.; and many grand nieces and nephews. He is also survived by his dear friends Msgr. Robert Lunsford, Msgr. Thomas Martin, Sr. Joan Meerschaert, Laurie Tichvon, and Colin Tichvon.
Reception of The Most Rev. Murray’s body will take place on Wednesday, June 10, 10 a.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral, 542 W. Michigan Ave., Kalamazoo. He will lie in state from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. with Solemn Vespers, for diocesan and visiting clergy at 5 p.m. The praying of the Rosary, led by Msgr. Michael Hazard, will be at 7:30 p.m. Visitation will continue on Thursday, June 11, beginning at 8:30 a.m. through 1:30 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, June 11, 2 p.m. at St. Augustine Cathedral with interment at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, 2003 Mt. Olivet Rd., Kalamazoo, immediately following Mass. Please visit The Most Rev. Murray’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may read his Life Story, archive a favorite memory or photo, and sign his online guestbook. At Bishop Murray’s request, please do not send flowers. Memorial contributions may be made to Catholic Charities Diocese of Kalamazoo and Newman’s Bookshoppe, Kalamazoo. Arrangements by Betzler Life Story Funeral Home, 6080 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, 269-375-2900.