The Very Rev. Father Daniel M. Munn, the founding pastor of St. Ignatius of Antioch Melkite-Greek Catholic Church, died of an apparent heart attack Thursday at St. Joseph Hospital, where he had been the director of pastoral care from 1984 until 2000. He was 71.
A former Episcopalian priest, he joined the Catholic Church in 1981 and became a priest at Catholic Church of the Most Holy Trinity in 1982. He served as parochial vicar there until his death.
He was one of the first married men to be ordained in the Catholic (Latin rite) Church, said the Rev. Miguel de Peralta, a priest at St. Ignatius, who is now director of pastoral care at the hospital.
The Very Rev. Munn was ordained with permission from the Vatican after Catholic bishops asked that clergy from other Christian traditions be accepted for ordination. He taught at the Medical College of Georgia and Aquinas High School and was an instructor in the deacon formation program for the Melkites. His title, the Very Rev. Father, signified that he was an archpriest in the Melkite Church, the highest title a married priest can receive.
The Melkites are among the Catholic Church's Eastern rites. Their liturgy is similar to that of Eastern Orthodox churches, but the Melkites, unlike Eastern Orthodox churches that broke with Rome in 1054, recognize the authority of the Roman pope.
"There was never a man more generous and loving than Father Daniel," the Rev. de Peralta said. "Even with his academic degrees and intellectual powers and church awards, he was a man who, at heart, was a pastor."
The Very Rev. Munn's degrees included a doctor of ministry degree, with a major in theology, from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga. He also had studied psychology at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland.
He held several posts at MCG between 1966 and 1984, including chaplain, pastoral consultant in family medicine and director of MCG's program in human sexuality.
Kevin Murrell, an Augusta psychiatrist, was a resident at MCG when he met the Very Rev. Munn. Their friendship spanned 25 years.
"It is a great gift to have an honest friend. I always knew I would get his best and most honest answer and probably an unbiased one, too," he said.
The priest had a dramatic side and a rich voice to match. He was named Best Actor by the Augusta Players in 1980 for his portrayal of King Henry II in the company's staging of The Lion in Winter.
A vigil will be held at 6 p.m. Sunday, followed by a rosary at 8 p.m. at Holy Trinity, 720 Telfair St. Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Ga., will celebrate a Mass at 12:15 p.m. Monday at the church.
The Rev. de Peralta will hold a funeral service at 6 p.m. at St. Ignatius, 1003 Merry St. Burial will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Westover Memorial Park.
The Very Rev. Munn is survived by his wife, Jan Gay Munn, daughters Susan M. Venable, Rebeccah M. Grady and her husband Michael, and Erin M. Williams and her husband Frank, all of Augusta; and a son, Dr. David H. Munn, of Augusta; and 12 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to either of the churches. Thomas Poteet & Son Funeral Directors, 214 Davis Road, is in charge of the services.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
During a panel discussion in May of The Di Vinci Code held at First Baptist Church, the Very Rev. Father Daniel Munn explains why Catholic priests are generally not allowed to marry.
Listen to the audio