Murphy to resign as vicar in Sept.

Doctors advise move

he will stay auxiliary bishop to the cardinal

August 24, 1999|By John Rivera | John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Bishop P. Francis Murphy, an auxiliary to Cardinal William H. Keeler, will resign next month from his position as vicar supervising the parishes in the western part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore as he continues his fight against cancer.

Murphy, 66, who is nationally known in Roman Catholic Church circles for his progressive stands on social justice, will resign Sept. 15 as western vicar, but will remain an auxiliary bishop.

"This is a very difficult letter for me to write to you," he said in a letter sent last week to the priests and pastoral workers in his region, which includes 39 parishes and four missions from Howard and Carroll to Garrett counties.

"You are well aware of my health situation," he said. "Although my chemotherapy is effective and my health is steadily improving, my doctors have advised me against returning to a fully active ministry of pastoral presence and availability in the Vicariate."

Murphy was diagnosed with cancer in January after doctors discovered a tumor during surgery for a suspected intestinal blockage. A CT scan revealed the cancer had spread to his liver.

A first round of chemotherapy in the spring was considered ineffective by his doctors. They have been pleased with the results of a second round. Murphy was hospitalized briefly in May because of a severe reaction to the second chemotherapy and spent several weeks at Stella Maris, a nursing facility in Timonium.

A priest for more than 40 years and a bishop since 1976, Murphy said that although he is "experiencing a sense of loss about this change, I am at peace with this decision and hopeful about the future."

"My ministry as Western Vicar has been richly fulfilling to me," he said. "I have always felt a deeply heartfelt affection from the pastoral leadership and people for the Vicariate. There is an extraordinary spirit of collaboration and hospitality among you that is sure to continue."

Priests and parishioners of Western Maryland reacted to the news of the resignation of their native son.

Murphy was born and raised in Cumberland and, as western vicar, has taken the lead in a number of initiatives, most notably Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland.

"The reaction is a sense of loss," said the Rev. George Limmer, pastor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Hagerstown.

"He's been very interested in the parishes in Western Maryland. He has been very faithful in visiting the parishes and being an advocate in time of need for the parishes."

Keeler said that although Murphy is resigning as vicar, he will continue his work on several other initiatives, including Beyond the Boundaries, which encourages parishes in the suburbs to reach out to churches in Baltimore's inner city, and Interfaith Housing of Western Maryland.

Murphy also will continue to sit on a council that monitors archdiocesan financial affairs.

"He's in the prayers of everyone," Keeler said. "Any time I'm with others, they tell me of their prayers for him, and I tell him of my prayers of him. He's very conscious of the love and support he's getting from many quarters."

Pub Date: 8/24/99

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