BANGOR, Maine — Bill and Rosemary Ford watched the Rev. Frank Murray grow up on Maple Street.
On Saturday afternoon, they attended Mass at St. John Catholic Church, where the Bangor native presided.
“It seems the most wonderful thing that could happen,” Rosemary Ford said after Mass. “He’s going to do a tremendous job.”
Murray, 67, became pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish effective Friday. He moved into the rectory next to the York Street church on Wednesday. He celebrated his first weekend Masses at St. John’s and St. Mary Catholic Church on Ohio Street.
“It’s an amazing experience to come back and put together all the memories of the past with the challenges of the future,” Murray said after Mass.
He left the Queen City for Auburn in 2003 after nine years as the pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church on Ohio Street, before its merger with St. John Catholic Church on York Street and parishes in Brewer, Hampden and Winterport. Murray’s last assignment was as pastor of All Saints Parish, comprising churches in Brunswick, Bath, Boothbay, Richmond and Newcastle. He went there in 2009.
Saturday’s Mass was a kind of homecoming for him.
“I was ordained right here in this church,” Murray said during his homily. “It has been a few years — 35 to be exact.”
He urged those who know him to give him “a second chance” and for the entire parish to be “very open to the next chapter” under his leadership.
“I love being a priest, and I love Greater Bangor,” Murray said. “The combination of the two at this point in my career is more than I ever could have hoped for. I am very happy and very grateful.”
Deborah Cox also knows Murray from his years in Bangor.
“He’s holy, but very kind, loving,” she said after Mass. “He’s a wonderful, caring person.”
Murray did not outline the challenges the parish is facing, but he has dealt with difficult issues and transitions before.
During his tenure at St. Mary’s, Murray helped complete a merger of Bangor’s two parish schools in 1999. The parish school on Ohio Street joined St. John Catholic School to form All Saints School. The St. Mary’s campus houses a preschool and kindergarten through third grade, while pupils in fourth through eighth grades attend the St. John campus on State Street.
Murray also led the church through the 1998 ice storm, when classes at the school were canceled for a week and Masses were celebrated in “subdued lighting” while a generator ran the furnace. He also saw the congregation through tragedy in 1995, when a man committed suicide in the church.
The priest is a graduate of the University of Maine. Murray served in the Legislature and was a teacher at John Bapst High School before studying at Catholic University of America. He was ordained in 1981. Before becoming pastor of the Newman Center in Orono in 1987, he was chaplain at Maine Medical Center and associate pastor at Sacred Heart in Portland.
During his time in Auburn, Murray also served as the diocesan director of vocations and the diocesan director of seminarians.
Murray replaced the Rev. Timothy J. Nadeau, who serves as pastor of Prince of Peace Parish in Lewiston.