by Marie Elena Giossi
Irish-born Father Eamon Gerard Murray was ordained to the priesthood by Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, Red Hook, on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 10.
Bishop Caggiano welcomed the congregation to witness the transitional deacon “be configured to the image of Christ the High Priest in service to God’s people.” Addressing Deacon Eamon, he said, “We come around you to pray for this one singular grace.”
Special concelebrants at the 3 p.m. ordination Mass included Father Alvaro Grammatica, general pastor, Koinonia John the Baptist (KJB); Father Claudio Antecini, pastor of New York’s KJB, who was installed as Visitation’s pastor the following day; Father Johannes Siegert, associate administrator, Visitation; and Father Anthony Sansone, pastor of neighboring Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen, Carroll Gardens.
Sacred Hearts-St. Stephen’s music ministers assisted with hymns at the ordination and the parish hosted a reception following Mass.
In his homily, the bishop reflected on the vocation to ministerial priesthood and what it means to share in the threefold office of Christ as priest, prophet and king.
He instructed Father Murray to preach the Truth “in season and out of season,” to dedicate himself to holiness and pray often. “It is your most important duty,” he said.
A Living Homily
He commended the new priest to the maternal care of the Blessed Mother, and said, “My prayer for you is that you become a living homily of faith.”
The ordination was one of the highlights of the parish’s three-day Great Marian Congress, Dec. 9-11, encompassing the feast of the Madonna of Loreto, Dec. 10, and the Vigil of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Dec. 11.
Opening with Friday evening Mass, the weekend featured praise, worship, songs and teachings about Mary. Retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq closed the Congress on Sunday by installing Father Antecini, parish administrator, as pastor.
Hours before the ordination, Richards St. received guests from as far as Ireland, Italy, the Czech Republic and California and as near as the next block. Bagpipes played on the street as parishioners and neighbors hurried in to fill pews.
“This gives us such hope,” said attendee Peggy White-Cannon. “The Spirit is alive. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
The soon-to-be ordained mingled among the people, greeting his mother, Kathleen, siblings, and nearly 50 relatives from Ireland as well as Father Antecini’s family from Italy.
Born and raised in Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan, Father Murray, 43, realized his vocation after a powerful experience of faith 19 years ago.
At the time, he had a successful life in the eyes of the world: a lucrative job as a mechanical engineer, a nice Jeep and a great girlfriend. Raised in a devout Catholic home, he went to church every week and spent time with his family.
“But I didn’t have the peace and the joy of the Lord,” Father Murray said. “I believed Jesus was the Lord maybe for an hour on Sunday but I wanted Him to be my Lord and Savior.”
Through prayer, he felt called to leave his life for one year to “get real with God.”
He hopped on a plane to Toronto with no plans. He roamed about Canada and the U.S. hawking T-shirts, waiting tables and selling Christmas trees.
“It was the best year of my life,” he said, because he realized his “passion for God, love of people and desire for the salvation of souls.”
On June 20, 1993, he had an epiphanic moment listening to Father Michael Pfleger at St. Sabina’s Catholic Church, Chicago. “His preaching changed my life. It was the first time I truly understood the Gospel,” he said. “I was on fire for God.”
He moved to Scotland for a year before entering St. Patrick’s Seminary in Thurles, Ireland. Two years later, Father John Murray told him about Koinonia and its International School of Evangelization in Rome. He took a course while on a school break.
“That was another earthquake in my life,” he said. He had the chance to “see the power of the Risen Jesus and see lives being changed. I felt I was in the right place.”
He spent a year with the Koinonia community in Plzeň-Litice (Pilsen), Czech Republic, before going to live at the motherhouse in Italy.
In 2004, he joined Father Antecini to build up the community in California. He returned to Rome before rejoining Father Antecini to spread the community in New York two years ago.
He was ordained a transitional deacon on June 15 of this year.
As a priest he wants to preach the Gospel and evangelize people. He wants to help people know Jesus, receive new life, have hope and be set free from fear — just as he was.
“People are dying in sin because they don’t know Jesus. He’s the answer to our hopes and dreams. You’re not going to find that in the New York Times or on the Internet,” he said.
The newly ordained will continue to serve in Red Hook, and grow in his priesthood under the guidance of his mentors, Fathers Antecini and Sansone.
Fluent in English and Italian, he is learning Spanish to better serve the neighborhood people, whom he finds “friendly and open, even though most don’t come to church. There’s a lot of potential and work to be done here.”