Leo A. Murray, Jesuit priest and film scholar, dies

The Rev. Leo A. Murray was a Jesuit priest and film scholar who had been president of Loyola Blakefield and pastor of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church.

The Rev. Leo A. Murray, a Jesuit priest and film scholar who had been president of Loyola Blakefield and pastor of St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, died of heart disease July 23 at Manresa Hall at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. He was 85.

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Leo A. Murray Sr., a Baltimore city police officer, and his wife, Margaret A. Doxzen.


Raised on East 28th Street, he attended SS. Philip and James School and was a 1949 graduate of Loyola High School. He joined the Society of Jesus at its St. Isaac Jogues Novitiate in Wernersville, Pa.

He received bachelor's and master's degrees from Weston College and was ordained a priest in 1962 at the old Woodstock College. He received a licentiate of sacred theology, also at Woodstock.


In the 1960s he earned a doctorate from the Institut Catholique de Paris and wrote his thesis on "Cinema and Theology," a study of the work of filmmaker Robert Bresson. Father Murray was granted his own screening room at the Cinematheque Francaise and was introduced to Mr. Bresson.

"While sharing drafts of his thesis with the film master, Father Murray became more active among the film scholars of Paris and came under the spell of the new wave ... [of filmmakers] Francois Truffant, Jean-Luc Godard and Eric Rohmer," said a 1978 article in The Baltimore Sun.

The article said Father Murray had been a member of the Catholic Film Office in Brussels and sat on juries that awarded prizes at the Berlin and Venice film festivals. He was a technical adviser for the 1966 film "A Man for All Seasons."

As a seminarian, he taught Latin, French, religion and communications at Loyola High School. In 1970, he returned to the school as president and headmaster. Colleagues recalled he introduced new educational ideas and a relaxed dress code during his three years at the Towson school.

"Leo was a gentle man with a sharp mind. Education played into everything he did. He was gifted in his creativity," said fellow Jesuit the Rev. William J. Watters, a former pastor of St. Ignatius Church.

"He came to Loyola Blakefield as new ideas in education were beginning to emerge," said Father Watters. "The programs he introduced were new, and he said, 'Let's give them a try.'"

Father Murray was appointed rector at Gonzaga High School in Washington, then in 1978 returned to Baltimore as pastor at St. Ignatius Church, at Calvert and Madison streets. He led the parish's 125th anniversary celebration.

"He was extremely gifted as a homilist," said Father Watters. "He had insights into the Gospels. He was deeply loved and respected by his parishioners."


"He was welcoming to everyone at St. Ignatius," said parish member Joanna Cox. "He knew everyone by name and was always smiling."

In 1983, then-Archbishop William D. Borders named him director of archdiocesan communications. He took a similar post in London and became Roman Catholic director of the Center for Communications and Culture, residing at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Farm Street in Mayfair.

In the early 1990s, Father Murray led religious retreats at Manresa-on-Severn in Anne Arundel County. He was also assistant director of preaching the Just Word, a Woodstock Theological Center program.

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When the St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, a free-tuition school, opened in 1993, Father Murray was its first headmaster. He later led retreats at the Colombiere Jesuit Community in Roland Park and was a St. Mary's Seminary & University consultant. In 1995 he was named pastor of Old St. Joseph's Church in Philadelphia.

Father Murray had been at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown since 2003.

Its pastor, the Rev. Kevin Gillespie, a fellow Jesuit, said his colleague had "a soothing baritone voice."


"When he spoke, people would listen," said Father Gillespie. "He had a handsome face, beautiful eyes and a warm, gentle smile. He so often spoke words of eloquent compassion. His last words were, 'It's time for me to go up now.'"

Plans for a memorial Mass at Loyola Blakefield are incomplete. A memorial sharing of stories of consolation will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 11 at the St. Ignatius Chapel of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, 3513 N Street NW, in Washington.

Survivors include his sister, Ann Hoffman of Dallastown, Pa., and nieces and nephews.