June 6, 2004 – Bishop George V. Murry, head of the Catholic diocese in the territory, will celebrate his silver anniversary next week with a special Mass at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday at Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral on St. Thomas. The service is open to all. It will be followed by a luncheon for priests and Chancery staff only.
Although the celebration will be what Murry called "low-key," he described the occasion itself as personally significant. "It's very important to me. The Lord has blessed me with 25 years of priesthood."
He was ordained in 1979, and served as a university professor in Washington, D.C. and in Detroit as well as president of Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., before being named Auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1995. His appointment as a bishop is unusual since he is a member of the Society of Jesus, (Jesuits,) an order famous as teachers who seldom are involved in the hierarchy of the church.
In 1998, Pope Paul II appointed Murry Coadjutor Bishop for St. Thomas, including St. Croix and St. John. A year later, on the retirement of Bishop Elliott G. Thomas, he became bishop of the diocese.
He sees many challenges facing the diocese. One is the need for basic instruction in the tenants of the faith. In the 1960s and '70s, the church moved away from stressing the basics, he said, and so a whole generation missed that instruction.
A second and obviously related – concern, he said, is enhancing the success of the four Catholic schools in the territory, and keeping them affordable.
Also important, Murry said, is the church's outreach to the community. While programs such as Catholic Charities are doing "wonderful work," the need for social services to the poor, the needy and the marginalized is evident and ongoing.
The bishop is leading an effort to chart a five-year plan for the church in the Virgin Islands. He called the first ever convocation for the diocese in May. About 80 representatives from the territory's Catholic parishes, schools and ministries both clergy and lay members gathered for two days of discussions that resulted in setting seven priorities: evangelization, education, youth, parish unity, family life, social outreach, vocations and finances.
As with all appointments, the bishop's tenure in the Virgin Islands is open-ended. The Pope does not indicate a length of service when he makes assignments, Murry said.
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