Jane Marie Murray, OP
March 18, 1896 - July 22, 1987
March 18, 1896 - July 22, 1987
Sister Jane Marie could rightly claim for her own Pope Pius X's motto: "To renew all things in Christ." By her inspired vision, keen mind and unbounded energies she worked to make these six words a reality. The motto came into being during Sister Jane Marie's childhood and subsequently shaped her life and ministry.
She was born into a devout Catholic family on March 18, 1896 in Freeport, Michigan. Named Mary Winifred by Daniel and Mary Murray, her parents, she was baptized at St. Patrick's in Bowne. It was a church where Mass was offered every other week. On intervening Sundays the Murrays assembled to pray the Rosary, led by the father who read short meditations on each mystery. Young Winifred, together with her brother and sisters, was introduced to God, the Blessed Virgin and prayer in this manner. And when they were old enough they learned little lessons in the Faith by reciting catechism lines to their father.
At this time in her life Winifred was far removed from the Holy Father's efforts at renewal. She was engrossed in classes at the local public school. But ten days prior to her ninth birthday Winifred's happy school days were interrupted when her mother died. This event necessitated the family's moving to Grand Rapids where the Murray children were enrolled at St. Andrew's School. A year later Winifred experienced another great sorrow: the death of her father.
Relatives responsible for the Murray children's care entrusted Winifred and her younger sister Marion to the Dominican Sisters at Holy Rosary Academy in Bay City. The years there significantly influenced Winifred and after graduation Sacred Heart Academy became her residence. In September of 1914 Winifred Murray joined the Dominican Community that had been her family since grade school days.
When she became Sister Jane Marie of the Holy Rosary in the spring of 1915, she was already embued with the Dominican spirit, having a particular fondness for the charism of study, as well as the Dominican practice of sharing with others the fruits of one's contemplation. Her first awareness of "To renew all things in Christ" came only after she had taught high school and college for approximately twelve years. In 1928 Sister Estelle Hackett arranged for Sister Jane Marie to attend a convention at Marygrove College in Detroit. There, through the words of Dr. George Barry, Marygrove's President, and Sister Judith Donnelly, IHM, Sister was initiated into a new era of liturgical happenings.
Sharing her newly acquired knowledge with Sister Estelle, she sent for and studied copies of "Orate Fratres" (now Worship) magazine. Her enthusiasm for and interest in liturgical matters were embraced by Mother Eveline Mackey, who a year later sent both Sisters Jane Marie and Estelle to Collegeville, Minnesota, to meet Dom Virgil Michel, OSB. It was he who had begun "Orate Fratres" and it was he whose wisdom and creativity encouraged Sister Jane Marie to work with him in what came to be called "The Liturgical Movement".
Through their efforts and with the blessing of Mother Eveline, Sister Jane Marie and fifteen other Grand Rapids Dominicans attended the 1929 Liturgical Summer School at St. John's in Collegeville. In the span of a summer they wrote five small laboratory manuals, “With Mother Church,” for grades three through twelve.
From then on Sister's pen turned prolific and fruitful. Nor did her writing cease when Dom Virgil died in 1938 and Sister Estelle in 1948. Rather, she continued their work and hers with greater diligence.
Sister's involvement in the Liturgical Movement drew her into the Catechetical Movement. She sought to incorporate liturgical, scriptural, theological and social aspects into the content of religion textbooks for both elementary and secondary students, perhaps remembering the little lessons in faith from her childhood. She was the sole author or collaborated with others in writing “The Christ Life Series,” “The Christian Religion Series,” “The Christian Life Series,” and two Holy Week booklets. In addition, she wrote for catechetical periodicals and was frequently called upon to lecture. In order, to minister more effectively she continued to study, becoming one of the first American women to receive a Licentiate in Theology from the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. Whether by writing or by speaking she was a Dominican woman enriched by prayer and contemplation, a Dominican woman eagerly sharing her gifts.
As the seventh decade of her life approached she became associated with the Aquinas College Institute of Religious Studies. At the same time she organized the Marywood Center for Religious Studies and invited local religious educators to share their vast resources, experiences, and insights with others. She was also very active in community renewal following Vatican II. And her retirement from academic life in 1975 was a mere formality, for her activities were not curtailed. Jail ministry occupied her energies and before long she was appointed to the state's Crime and Criminal Delinquency Council in Lansing. For Sister Jane Marie retirement simply meant doing something different, full-time.
Reaching her seventy-fifth birthday Sister wrote a delightful and reflective article for "Rapport" in which with her questioning mind and her active faith, she probed the realization of becoming older. "Each person's growing old is surely distinctly her own thing. It has never happened before. For 'being old' is an age as truly authentic as that of childhood, adolescence, youth or middle age. It is not merely a negative condition. There is a 'new' thing that awaits one who is old, and, as I see it, this new thing lies in the positive loving acceptance of each experience of declining powers as a special sharing in the saving work of Christ." And that's what Sister Jane Marie's life was all about, using her many abilities to share in the saving work of Christ.
Awards aplenty were bestowed upon Sister Jane Murray during her ninety-one years: honorary degrees, the St. Thomas Aquinas Medal in Catechetics from the Dominican Fathers Pontifical Institute, the Alleluia Award from the Grand Rapids Diocese. But the greatest was given in the quiet of her Aquinata room. Eternal life was hers. St. Paul's words befit that moment: "Forgetting what is behind, I strain forward to what is before. I press on toward the goal, to the prize of God's heavenly call."
Dear Sister Jane Marie, may the God you served so well be your happiness forever.
Tribute prepared by the Grand Rapids Dominicans, Sister Rose Marie Martin, Archives Manager.