The recent death of Msgr. Francis Murphy highlights a concern shared by many concerned Catholics in the Diocese of Gaylord. Although elderly and clearly frail, Msgr. Murphy, former Vicar General of the Diocese, was asked to help serve the parishes of St. Anne, St. Stephen, and St. Edward due to the suspension of Father Matthew Cowan. On at least one occasion during mass, when they were concelebrating mass together, Fr. Michael Janowski was noted to tease the elderly Monsignor Murphy and ask him if he was still awake. At another mass, Msgr. Murphy needed a lector to read the Gospel reading due to poor eyesight.
Meanwhile, Fr. Matthew Cowan was put on administrative leave and is in virtual “house arrest” from his priestly duties after he went public with allegations of sexual abuse by disgraced fellow priest Fr. Dennis Stilwell. Fr. Cowan’s absence leaves a glaring hole in the number of priests in the Diocese, especially since his last assignment before suspension was the cluster of parishes to which Msgr. Murphy was called to assist. A concerned member of this cluster of parishes remarked how unfortunate it was that Msgr. Murphy was not able to participate in a full retirement, even for a few months, before he died.
Fr. Cowan remains in administrative limbo as his case has been sent to the Vatican for an appeal of his suspension. We will keep you informed of his situation.