In the early morning hours of Friday April 27,2018 Michael Gordon Murray quietly went home to the God he loved. He was suffering from COPD and other serious illnesses for many years and breathing was increasingly difficult for him. He was taken by ambulance to Lee Memorial Hospital last week and that is where he died. His death is a profound loss to all who knew him-for he was one who cared.
And yet, knowing Michael we know that he is fully whole, living with Christ in love and light now. For that, and for his life we are so thankful.
Michael was a member of Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community since 2007 and Pastor Judy Beaumont and I had the privilege of being his Pastors. One of our hymns says after the passage in I John, “You shall know they are Christians by their love, by their love, you shall know they are Christians by their love.” And that is how we knew Michael -as one who loved all who touched his life-neighbors,church members, friends,and especially,the family he kept in touch with by phone and held always in his heart. He was known for his caring heart,generosity and easy conversation spiced with humor and laughter.He also loved God’s smallest creatures, the neighborhood cats, and spent his fixed income on carefully meeting their needs.
Michael,known as Mike,was born in Norwell, Massachussets,the third of three boys born to William and Kathleen Murray. He was graduated from Norwell High School and soon after served in the U.S. Army where he was an MP. He was honorably discharged. He attended the University of Massachussets for two years and left to marry and work to support his two sons, Paul and Keith. He proudly talked of Paul’s bands and auto mechanic abilities and Keith’s teaching music at the Berkley School of Music. While Michael was divorced he held his family in highest esteem. Mike and his brother moved to Florida to start a trucking business but after three years his brother returned to Massachussets. Michael worked as a store clerk at Publix until a variety of serious illnesses caught up with him. By 2007 when we met at our Church in the Park Ministry Mike was homeless and battling alcoholism yet the person he was shone through like a bright light. He could be counted on to read the Scriptures at the Park and later in the indoor Services and to help others,including his Pastors and our Volunteers. Mike’s Dad drank heavily after the death of his wife, Mike’s beloved mother, in 1980 and Mike traces his battle with alcohol to that as well. This was a very great loss for him. He noted that the genetic link also “caught him” and the loss of his Dad two years later in 1982 increased his sense of grief and loss. Mike was totally open to working with us toward health and sobriety and housing. He was one of the first four residents at our Joshua House Transitional Living Facility in November 2008. He worked hard in our Program and was accepted into Goodwill Housing for the Physically disabled in early 2009. This is Mike at Joshua House with other early residents Richie Duncan also a Vet, and Carl Palmer.
The following is a picture of Mike with his Pastors and Ben Walden and Brenda Cummings who were also moving, at that time, to Goodwill Housing in Charlotte County. Later Mike and Ben transferred back to Lee County in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral. Ben also had serious medical conditions and passed away last year. Yet both retained their housing and had a good quality of life over the years reconciling with family and having good friends, thanks be to God.
This picture (below) is Michael’s favorite view of Christ. He said that he identified completely with the man being lifted by Christ. Our church artist Hank Tessandori painted a picture on this theme for Mike who cherished it,and shared his testimony with all.
This is Hank with Mike, the Pastors
and some of the men.
On Good Friday our community would walk the Stations of the Cross in the nearby streets. Mike was our Jesus in two different years. He said that he knew about carrying his cross and he wanted to carry the cross for Jesus and to thank Jesus and the community. Mike’s openness about sharing his story and his struggles and redemption was inspiring and moving to all. (The prayer intentions of the community are nailed to the cross).
In an earlier blog I told the story of Mike’s giving his blood to help others and included a picture of Mike and one of his rescued cats standing in front of a patriotic door decoration at Mike’s home. Indeed, Mike struggled but he also gave himself to others and truly loved. We are so thankful for Mike’s life.
There will be a Memorial service announced here when we can work out the details with Mike’s family.
Now we commend Michael Gordon Murray to his loving God. (With The Order of Funerals we say:)
“Loving and merciful God,
we entrust our brother Michael to your mercy.
You loved him greatly in this life:
now that he is freed from all its cares,
give him happiness and peace forever.
The old order has passed away:
welcome him now into paradise
where there will be no more sorrow,
no more weeping or pain,
but only peace and joy
with Jesus your Son,
and the Holy Spirit
for ever and ever.Amen”
WE LOVE YOU Mike! REST IN PEACE AND JOY.
In the Risen Christ,
Love and Blessings,
Pastor Judy Lee
Rev. Dr. Judith A. Lee, RCWP
The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers
Today, for the fifth Sunday of Easter,(April 29,2018)Jesus teaches us that he is the vine and we, if we remain in him, and are doing what he asks-are the branches. We are an organic living part of the living Christ. He teaches us about vines and what they need to grow-pruning (John 15:1-8). I was a city kid. The most I knew about pruning trees or vines is that city backyards can be like jungles when no one cuts back the growth and the weeds. My friend Jean Tracy and I loved picking grapes off our Italian neighbors’ grape vines and looking for the sweet ones that seemed to hide among the overgrown vines. More than that we loved climbing the tall bending tree trunks with palm like fronds of pointy green leaves that once were weeds that are called the “Tree of Heaven”- or the tree that grows in Brooklyn. It’s almost nutty smell was intoxicating and my mother was certain that I would die falling from its high and lengthy arms. They grow anywhere, in gutters and in every crack and crevice-mainly where one would not want them to grow. We did love that “tree”. When I think of pruning these days I need only look around my house. I rarely take the time and energy to keep the beautiful and hearty bushes and flowers that are abundant in Florida neatly trimmed. When they are not trimmed the dead branches crowd out the life in the remaining ones.Below is what became of lovely flowers on the side of my house due to my neglect of pruning.
And here is Gaspare Randazzo a Good Shepherd member confirmed as an adult who is helping me prune what was once a pretty garden area. He is strong and up to the work and I am thankful to have his help. Like me, he also must occasionally work on pruning things in his life that choke out life and fruitful activity. His beautiful smile is a testimony to his hard work and success. Pastor Judy Beaumont had amidst her things a small calligraphy that reads: “If you meet someone who has no smile, give them one of yours”. How she lived that! We all remember her smile as lighting up the room and illuminating the darkness of despair that eats away at life. And we also remember the endless ways in which she showed her love in small and large ways. Our church member Judy Alves recalls the careful and caring way that each and every week Pastor B would count out a week’s worth of medications for a man who could not manage his own medications. He rarely said thank you or acknowledged her very tedious task-he’d just take the pills and go. When I mentioned my annoyance at this to her she responded:”He is probably doing the best he can”. I was gently pruned. Similarly, when she put in endless hours in Connecticut as the CEO of My Sister’s Place to deliver two new buildings to house the homeless and four programs to meet their varied needs,I encouraged her to rest and take time for herself and for our life together. I came to realize that she was doing the very best she could to grow the kingdom/kindom of God-and was again gently pruned. Love that produces justice is very hard work. With love we may prune one another, and with love, God prunes us.
Jesus tells us that God “takes away every branch that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit” (John 15:2). God’s pruning acknowledges that we ARE strong in Christ, and are already bearing fruit. But we can usually bear more fruit for the kingdom. The Epistle of John (I John 3:18-24) makes clear that fruit in our lives comes from loving “not in word or speech but in deed and truth”. We remain in Christ when we keep his commandments to” love one another just as he commanded us”. If we do not live a life of active love that leads to justice we are not bearing fruit.
And, even when we are bearing fruit for the kingdom we may need to cut back some things in order to produce even more fruit. I look at my own life. As I struggle with my own grief over losing Pastor Judy Beaumont, my beloved life and ministry partner for almost thirty years, I worry about what I have left to continue to build God’s kingdom on my own. It is a challenge. Grief can not be curtailed- one cries when the “Spirit says cry” and moans when the Spirit says moan-and on automatic pilot does the many things needed to continue life in a new way. But I can not stop building the kingdom- I have to build it even as I grieve. It is my call, it is my life in the living vine. I do not see loss and grief as a pruning from God but I do think it can have that effect. It can immobilize. I am writing again because it is part of my ministry. I am visiting the sick as I can and helping poor folks materially, emotionally and spiritually one by one so they can have abundant life. Yes, sometimes I am pushing myself hard to do this,and I don’t do nearly enough, but that is okay. It just needs to be done. I am very thankful for some of my Good Shepherd members and my friends who help me to do what needs to be done. God has provided and I am thankful. With God’s help in the coming weeks I will continue to counsel the young in need of jobs and support, comfort the Grandmother who has advanced cancer and be there for her and her family in person as they meet with the Doctor, and take the woman whose feet hurt so badly that she cannot walk for special shoes. It is little enough, but this I can still do. What more I can do will be apparent in time. God’s love is constant. Whatever prunes us so that we can bear more fruit is an expression of God’s love. Bring the pruning on!
The Psalm of the day (Psalm 22:26-27,28,30,31-32)says:
“I will fulfill my vows before those who fear the Lord.The lowly shall eat their fill…Let the coming generation be told of the Lord that they may proclaim to a people yet to be born the justice (God) has shown”. These two challenges have been the essence of our Good Shepherd ministry-to feed and house the hungry and poor and to teach and guide the young in the Way. I pray to do what I can do. I pray for the strength and guidance to continue bearing the fruits of love and justice for the kingdom so the kin-dom of God may reign on earth.
And I pray this prayer for you as well.
My friend Dr. Ruth Martin, African American elder in our community in Connecticut, sent this Peace Lily in Memoriam to Pastor Judy Beaumont in early February. Gaspare helped me to repot it about six weeks ago and with space to breathe and grow, and yes, a little pruning, it is now producing beautiful Peace lilies. May our lives be like this:
Amen and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Ministries
Here is the link to a beautiful youtube video entitled CATHOLIC WOMEN CALLED.
It is produced by WOC- the Women’s Ordination Conference and WOW, Women’s Ordination Worldwide and is also a work in progress where others may share their call. The video following it with Roy Bourgeois,an activist Roman Catholic Priest who supports women’s ordination entitled A LIFE LIVED FROM CONSCIENCE is also an eye-opener.
rev. Judith Lee, RCWP
Here are two pictures from the Priestly Ordination of two Roman Catholic women taken on Saturday April, 21, 2018, courtesy of Rev. Cynthia L. Black, Copyrighted.
Below: Rev.Donna Enos Burke of New Hampshire and Rev Erma M. Durkin of Maryland
Below: Celebrating in great joy-Some of the Priests of the Eastern Region of RCWP, Roman Catholic Women Priests with the newly ordained Rev. Donna E. Burke and Rev. Erma M. Durkin in front of the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown , New Jersey
BLESSINGS AND PRAYERS FOR OUR New Priests,
Rev. Judith A. Lee, RCWP
This article from Irish Central by Frances Mulraney is a great interview with Rev. Jennifer O’Malley,RCWP of California.
This morning, April 21, 2018, amidst the great joy of the large congregation gathered two well prepared women were ordained into the Roman Catholic Priesthood at the Church of the Redeemer in Morristown, New Jersey. Donna Enos Burke of Amherst, New Hampshire and Erma Durkin of Glen Arm, Maryland took the vows of Holy Orders with Bishop Andrea Johnson of the Eastern Region of RomanCatholicWomenPriests, RCWP, presiding. As Bishop Johnson is validly ordained via a line of Apostolic Succession beginning with a male Bishop in good standing with the Church whose name will be revealed upon his death, this is a valid ordination. Because by Canon Law the Church only ordains men this is also an illicit ordination. The Church says that the women excommunicate themselves by accepting Holy Orders. However, they reject this excommunication noting that “…nothing can separate me from the love of Christ…” Both women were called forth to serve by their own communities and look forward to serving as priests.
For Donna Burke the call to serve as a priest came in childhood in Fall River Massachussets. Although many attempted to discourage her she hopefully pursued the possibility throughout her life as she served the Church and God’s people in many ways. She has a Masters in Theology and Scriptural Studies and also will complete a MDiv degree at Andover Newtown Theological School. She plans to do hospice work focusing on both patients and their families and looks forward also to pursuing a DMin degree in the future.
Erma Durkin has led a life of service. She was a Religious sister for twenty years serving in many different States in the US and in Puerto Rico. Her specialty is Religious Education and she served in parishes until recently. When she left Religious Life she became a wife and mother of three and is a grandmother to two. She will continue to serve with other Priests at Living Waters Community in Maryland.
Congratulations and God’s richest blessings upon these faithful and courageous new Priests and their Ministries!
Love and blessings,
Rev. Dr. Judith Lee, RCWP
Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community, Fort Myers, Florida