b Msgr. McMurtrie: 'He Has Gone too Quickly' -b

A standing-room only crowd at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More bid an emotional farewell Oct. 24 to one of its most beloved priests, Msgr. James W. McMurtrie, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Arlington, who died Oct. 20 at the age of 66. Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde was the celebrant at the funeral Mass. Father Bill La Fratta, a priest of the Richmond Diocese, was the homilist. Archbishop Edwin O?Brien of the Military Ordinariate and Retired Richmond Bishop Walter F. Sullivan presided. Permanent Deacons Sam Taub and William J. Donovan assisted. Msgr. R. Roy Cosby, Vicar General of the Arlington Diocese, was the homilist at the Oct. 23 wake service at St. Agnes Church. Brother priests, family members and friends gathered in force at the Cathedral and St. Agnes Church. A large police escort accompanied the funeral procession from the Cathedral to Fairfax Memorial Park on Braddock Road. The line of cars stretched for a mile as it made its way west on Route 50, holding up rush hour traffic along the way. In brief remarks at the end of Mass, Bishop Loverde repeated the comments Msgr. Cosby made during his wake service homily to describe Msgr. McMurtrie: "because of you I am closer to God." "Msgr. McMurtrie allowed himself to be the instrument to draw us closer to God," the bishop said. "His death is such a blow to all of us." As diocesan administrator following the death of Bishop John R. Keating in March 1998, Msgr. McMurtrie was the first person Bishop Loverde spoke to after his appointment as the third bishop of Arlington in January 1999. They actually met privately at the March for Life that year. "I enjoyed his humor, collaboration and frank opinions," the bishop said. "He has gone too quickly. I shall miss him. Our faith enables us to see beyond the tears and heartaches. Msgr. McMurtrie has not gone away. He has gone ahead." Father La Fratta was friends with Msgr. McMurtrie for more than 40 years. The two grew up together in Richmond and were ordained a year apart. He called their many vacations together "a time of renewal and a time to be restored. "As we leave here today I hope we all find ourselves challenged to be followers of Jesus," Father La Fratta said. "Life is all about relationships," he said, and Msgr. McMurtrie had strong, loving and devoted relationships with his family and brother priests. As part of their "homework assignment," Father La Fratta asked the congregation to mend any family relationships that might be in need of healing. Msgr. McMurtrie loved the priesthood "to the depths of his being," said Father La Fratta, who then asked the ordained clergy in attendance to recommit themselves to servanthood. Msgr. McMurtrie hosted an annual gathering of priests at his rectory every Labor Day. "Priests need priests," Father La Fratta said. "Msgr. McMurtrie knew the importance of keeping the priests together. "These are tough times for priests," he added. "We must support one another and the scandals will disappear. Find one change in your life that will make you more committed to Jesus Christ." The funeral Mass coincidentally was offered on the same day as the annual Diocesan Education Institute at Bishop O?Connell High School in Arlington, where Msgr. McMurtrie served as principal from 1972-77. Monsignor was a true friend of Catholic education. He made it a top priority at all of his pastoral assignments, from Petersburg to Ashburn. His legacy in this area will be felt for generations to come. He played a key role in the purchase of land in Prince William and Loudoun Counties on which two new diocesan high schools will be built within the next few years. Interment was at Fairfax Memorial Park. Msgr. McMurtrie is survived by one sister, Elizabeth Ann Capetola of Malvern, Pa.; and two brothers, Alexander B. McMurtrie of Richmond; and William G. McMurtrie of Maryland, and 13 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alexander Benedict and Mary Teresa McMurtrie, and a sister, Sister May Ellen, S.S.J. The family requests that contributions be made to the Msgr. McMurtrie Memorial Fund, c/o Bishop O?Connell High School, 6600 Little Falls Rd., Arlington, Va. 22213.

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