TOKYO — Donnon Murray, OFM, 89, a professed Franciscan friar for 68 years and a priest for 63, died on May 29 at St. Anthony Friary here. A farewell Mass and floral tribute ceremony were held on May 31 in Tokyo. Donnon had lived in Japan for more than six decades.
A funeral Mass for Donnon, as well as the burial, will be celebrated after restrictions related to the pandemic have been lifted.
Donnon was born on March 9, 1931, in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, near Scranton, to James and Gertrude (née Healey) and was baptized Martin. He attended grammar school in Olyphant, and then went to high school and college at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Callicoon, New York.
He was received into the Franciscan Order on Aug. 12, 1950, at the Province’s novitiate in Paterson, New Jersey, taking the name Donnon. He was part of the largest novitiate class in the history of Holy Name Province, with 53 clerics and nine brothers. On Aug. 13, 1951, he professed his first vows as a Franciscan. He studied philosophy from 1951 to 1953 in Croghan, New York, and Butler, New Jersey, and theology in Butler and Washington, D.C., from 1953 to 1957.
On Aug. 12, 1954, Donnon professed his final vows before Celsus Wheeler, OFM, at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, New York. He was ordained to the priesthood on Sept. 7, 1956, at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.
After ordination, Donnon served on the faculty of St. Joseph’s Seminary for a year and then volunteered for missionary work in Japan. He studied from 1958 to 1961 at the Tokyo Japanese Language School. From 1961 until 1987, he served at parishes in Isesaki, Kiryu, Maebashi, and Takasaki in the Gunma Prefecture.
For the last 33 years, Donnon was assigned to the Franciscan Chapel Center, the English-language parish of the Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo. For nearly 40 years, he traveled worldwide as a team priest for Marriage Encounter, a program that was part of FIRES, whose name stands for families, intercommunication, relationships, experiences, and services. His efforts in helping couples strengthen their relationships were widely known and respected. Donnon expanded FIRES throughout Japan, as well as to countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
In late May, because of failing health, Donnon was transferred from the Franciscan Chapel Center to St. Anthony Friary which provided nursing services. Donnon is survived by three sisters-in-law — Judy Murray of Towson, Maryland, Norma Murray of Denver, Colorado, and Roseanne Murray of Baltimore, Maryland — as well as many cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by four brothers and three sisters.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas
- Friar Story about Donnon Murray – HNP.org website
- “Tokyo Missionary Expands Programs” – Oct. 23, 2009, HNP Today
- “Franciscans in Japan Unharmed by Earthquake” – March 23, 2011, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Chapel Center: Ministry to Refugees” – Aug. 4, 2010, HNP Today