MURPHY, BISHOP MICHAEL (July 1, 1915-April 3, 2007) was a Roman Catholic priest who served as a seminary administrator, Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, and Bishop of Erie, Pennsylvania. Born in Cleveland, he was the only child of William and Mary Bridget (Patton) Murphy.

As a child, Murphy attended St. Rose and St. James schools before graduating from Cathedral Latin High School in 1933. For the next two years, he attended Niagara University in New York before entering Cleveland’s ST. MARY SEMINARY, fulfilling his long-time desire to enter the priesthood. He would go on to attend the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. However, because of the escalation of the Second World War in 1940, he returned to the United States to complete his education at the Theological College of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He would graduate in time for his February 28, 1942 ordination in Cleveland.

In 1943, he began a thirty-three year career at St. Mary Seminary by becoming a Professor of Theology. The next year, he became the Dean of Students and was promoted to Vice Rector in 1948. From 1963 until 1976, he served as Rector of the seminary. His years of experience training young priests gave him great credibility in the field, leading him to be called to the Vatican in 1980 to discuss American Catholic seminaries with Pope John Paul II.

In 1976, Murphy was consecrated as Auxiliary Bishop of Cleveland, becoming the Episcopal Vicar of Summit County. Two years later, he became the third United States appointment of newly elected Pope John Paul II; he was given the role of Coadjutor Bishop of Erie, which designated him as successor to the Bishop. As Coadjutor Bishop, Murphy issued a letter regarding marriage preparation and services which set the diocese’s tone on the subject for years to come. He also helped to incorporate more women religious and laity into the diocesian administration.

In 1982, after the retirement of Bishop Alfred Watson, Murphy became the eighth bishop of Erie. His tenure, which lasted until he was required to retire at the age of 75 in 1990, saw the creation of the Emmaus and RENEW programs, which fostered spiritual growth for priests and lay Catholics. He also was a public voice against both the death penalty and abortion, issuing numerous letters and messages to state politicians. However, he received criticism during the national clerical sex abuse scandal.

His 1984 “Share His Gifts - His Mission” campaign sought to raise $9 million to cover diocesan expenses for social needs and renovations. The appeal ended up raising $14 million in donations. 

After his 8-year tenure as Bishop, Murphy resigned in 1990. Much of his retirement was spent at St. Patrick Parish in Erie. Throughout his life, Bishop Murphy received numerous awards, including the Bishop Loras Lane Award in 1984 and the WALKS OF LIFE AWARD from Cleveland’s Irish American Archives Society in 2000. He died on April 3, 2007, and is buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Cleveland.


Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan


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