CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF MAKURDI

Biography Of Bishop Donald J. Murray.

Donald Joseph Murray, C.S.Sp was born to Michael and Mary Murray in Limerick, Ireland, February 11, 1918, one of a family of six sons and one daughter. He attended the Christian Brother's School, Limerick, 1930-1933; before entering the juniorate of the Christian Brothers in Cheshire, England. As a professed Brother, he taught in St. Brendan's college, Bristol, from 1936 to 1939, when he felt drawn to the missionary priesthood. In 1940, he commenced his studies for the priesthood at St Mary's College, Castlehead. He made his profession on October 2, 1942, and was ordained to the priesthood on April 7, 1946. His first appointment was to the Prefecture of Otukpo, Nigeria, which later became the Diocese of Makurdi. There his first appointment was to Gboko as assistant priest.


Three years later he was asked to go and complete his degree in University College, Dublin. He was away for two years and on his return in 1953, he was appointed as principal of Mt St Michael's Secondary School which had just been opened the year before in Korinya. The following year, he saw to the transfer of the school to the permanent site at Aliade but in 1957 he had to return to Ireland for health reasons. He returned a year later and was posted to the District of Makurdi. He was put in charge of a new Teachers Training College for men, which was to be built in Lafia. With the help of lay teachers from Europe, he was able to establish a reliable source of Grade II teachers for the many new primary schools in Makurdi Diocese. He was a man of vision.


He became Vicar Delegate of the Diocese when Bishop Hagan resigned in 1966. He quickly appointed Fr Guthrie as his replacement as principal of St Augustine's T.T.C. Lafia. During the Nigerian civil war when the Kiltegan Fathers were refused entry into the Diocese of Ogoja, he invited them to stay and work in his Diocese until they could return. Later as Bishop, he invited other societies to take up work in the Diocese, they are the SMA, Claretians, Vincentians, as well as priests from the Irish, Nigerian and Trinidadian Holy Ghost Provinces. He welcomed the Marist and de la Salle Brothers, The Holy Rosary Sisters in 1953, who were joined by the H.C.J Sisters, the Daughters of Charity, Medical Missionaries, Ursulines and Our Lady's Missionaries. He founded the Nativity Sisters as a Diocesan society.


Offertory procession in Makurdi Diocese

While he was still Vicar Delegate, the bishops of the North on account of the civil war were looking for a place for their seminarians; he offered them rooms in his own junior seminary in Keffi, until they could move to Jos. When the government wanted the site in Keffi, he secured a site at Kanshio, Makurdi, for his junior seminary. Again when the bishops of the North wanted a site for a regional major seminary, he offered them his junior seminary where we have St. Thomas Aquinas Major Seminary today while the junior seminary was moved to Aliade on the premises of St Michael's and later to Yandev.


Bishop Murray bought the boat yard from the government and built what is today St Joseph Trade Centre. He encouraged his priests to open many new mission centres. He saw the need for a new Cathedral, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral, replacing the old one, Holy Ghost Parish. He opened new hospitals at Aliade, Ihugh, Okpoga and founded the World Mercy Charity with the help of Father A. Rooney working in the USA to support these hospitals and other health facilities in his Diocese.


Bishop Murray had the gift of sub-delegation and let everyone got on with the work in his own way. He believed that the local church had to be supported by the local clergy. When he took over the Diocese, there was no local priests. When he retired in 1989, the Diocese had over 100 local men as Diocesan priests and he handed over to a Tiv Diocesan priest as the first indigenous bishop. He returned to Ireland and took up the position of chaplain to the hospital and community of the Sisters of Charity in Dublin. There he died on August 15, 1999.