Noted musician, American missionary passes away in the Philippines

Father Theodore Murnane, 1930-2012

Murnane,_Fr_Theodore_for_webFather Theodore Dean Murnane SVD, a recognized liturgical musician in the United States and a missionary abroad for more than 40 years, died Aug. 29 in the Philippines.

An accomplished trumpet player, Father Murnane taught at Divine Word Seminary at Techny, Ill., and was music director for much of the 1960s. Simultaneously, he worked for World Library of Sacred Music workshops and delivered lectures about liturgical music nationwide.

In 1966, a writer noted, "Father Murnane actually trained a choir on the spot with special emphasis on techniques of English diction, which have become doubly important in the new vernacular library of the Catholic Church."

The following year, the United States Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy named him to its National Music Advisory Board. In the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, the bishops relied upon this board to help them develop effective liturgical music in dioceses across the country.

Father Murnane earned a master’s degree in musical composition from DePaul University in 1968. For his thesis project, he composed a chamber music set to the poetry of E.E. Cummings. The work featured ten voices accompanied by various chamber music instruments.

Father Murnane received his first and only overseas assignment in 1969. His superiors asked him to develop a music course at the University of San Carlos (USC) in Cebu City, Philippines. The course was to be the first step in establishing a music conservatory. However, political unrest interfered with the program’s success. Instead, Father Murnane continued his priestly ministry at the university—presiding and preaching at Masses, assisting in recollections and listening to the confessions of the students.

In 1975, he was named director of Research at USC and later was also assigned a position in developmental relations. With this dual role, he became active in various phases of academic accreditation and was instrumental in promoting and coordinating research activities.

His efforts resulted in educational links with a number of schools, including Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan; Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan; and Widya Mandira Catholic University of Kupang in West Timor, Indonesia.

As director of University Linkages, he arranged programs for visiting professors and exchange students as well as continuing education for USC educators and the visits of USC administrators to other universities in Australia, Europe and the United States.

Born in Utica, N.Y., in 1930, Father Murnane was one of Theodore and Dorothy (nee Kelly) Murnane’s five children. He became a Divine Word Missionary in 1951 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1959. He officially retired from academia in 2008 but continued to serve as an academic consultant at USC until his death.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made in the name of Father Murnane and sent to the Divine Word Missionaries, P.O. Box 6099, Techny, IL  60082-6099.

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