Fr. John Mullen
Eulogy and Prayers of the Faithful
Maura Flaherty his niece & Fr. Joe O’Reilly, Rosminian priest
Thank you all for coming. Your presence is a testament to the kind and generous life Johnny lead. Fr. John Mullen was a son, brother, friend, brother-in-law, uncle, priest, missionary, and teacher. But to me, he was my uncle. John “Johnny” Mullen was born April 30, 1939 in Huddersfield, England. He was the second son to Ann and Padraic Mullen. Soon after his birth, the Mullen family returned to Ireland and settled in Seanafeistin where Johnny grew up with his 6 brothers and 2 sisters.
While working as a young boy in the forestry, a priest from the Rosminion order had come and passed out pamphlets about their school and seminary in Omeath, Louth. So, at the age of 14, Johnny began his journey to the priesthood.
He was ordained a priest of the Rosminion order in 1967. He set off on his religious journey as a missionary in Tanzania and Kenya in Africa. He spent many years there working until his missionary work brought him to places all over the United States. While completing his missionary work in America, he encouraged his family to join him and share in the experiences he had and enjoyed so much. Eventually, he was called to work in Peoria, IL as a parish priest.
As I grew up in Chicago, IL Johnny became a frequent visitor. We loved when Johnny came for a visit. He always brought gifts and we loved spending time with him. I remember the candy he would bring and also the comic books about saints. He was a big part of our life as our uncle, and he blessed us with his devotion to his faith by also participating in our communions and many times saying mass for us in our homes. He taught us so much. He had 17 nieces and nephews that share similar memories because he was involved in so many of our baptisms, communions, weddings, and masses for not only ourselves but eventually he was there for our children too, his great nieces and nephews. In fact, he was the first priest to give me my first holy communion in this very church. It is a memory I will cherish. He was very influential in our spiritual life and encouraged us to participate in the mass alongside him, either as an altar server, reading, or singing. We loved to help him prepare for the Sunday mass at the schoolhouse in Seanafistin.
As Johnny’s parents grew older, He decided to return to Ireland to be closer to them. He was sent to work as a teacher and counselor at the Rosmini Community college in Drumcondra. He always welcomed us to Drumcondra and would make you feel so at home and give you all the comforts of home. There was so much pride in his school and he loved taking you to tour it and meet his colleagues. He loved teaching his students. JJ, as his students affectionately called him, often shared happy memories about his students and the lessons, he shared with them. He would take us on walks through Dublin showing us the sites, like Trinity College to see the Book of Kells.
When he would return to Seanafeistin for visits, he would take us on some of his infamous walks, always fast and long. He was great for getting us all to take a walk up the road. One time he almost had us walk the eight miles to Oughterard. He would often take his youngest brother Bernard on walks and was an integral part of finding a home for Bernard with the Galway Association at Blackrock house in Salthill. Even after their mother had passed, Johnny was always there to care for Bernard.
When I was a child, it seemed that Johnny knew everyone, and they knew him. He has touched so many lives and we are all blessed for it. He often spoke to me about the psychologist, Glasser who was the founder of the Choice theory. His theory detailed how we ourselves choose our happiness and are responsible for it to occur. Johnny spoke to me about how he used this in his life and in his approach to his beloved students. Johnny chose happiness and chose to give it to so many by dedicating his life to helping others and sharing his faith with them. He enjoyed life to the fullest, through music, song and dance. His spirit, energy and heart was something we all enjoyed. His gentle, caring, and warm nature was felt by all that had the good fortune to know him and his generous spirit. He was always ready to help. He married so many friends and family and was always there for them. His love and kindness will be missed.
Although there is an empty place in my heart, a loss of an incredible uncle and friend, I am comforted in the knowledge that he is watching over us in heaven with his mother and father and beloved brother Bernard.
As WB Yeats said, “Think where man’s glory Most begins and ends And say my glory was that I had such friends.” Our lives have been forever touched by the loving presence of Johnny Mullen.
We love you, Johnny. We miss you and you will live on forever in our hearts and memories.
Ni bheidh do leitheid ann arist.
(there will be no other like you)
Fr John Mullen – Funeral Mass – November 4, 2022.
Introduction to the Mass:
Good morning. I am Fr. Joe O’Reilly, I am a Rosminian priest and I am here along with a group of Rosminian Priests, some of whom worked with Fr. Johnny Mullen on the mission; I am also joined by Fr. Connolly the PP of Oughterard and Frs. McLoughlin, representing Bishop Michael and by Fr. Moran who knew Fr. Johnny well. We are gathered to celebrate with you the life of Fr. John Mullen, to give thanks to God for the many blessings he bestowed on Johnny and to
ask God in his mercy to bring Johnny home to himself.
We are conscious that that people who are not able to be here with us, most particularly members of Fr. John’s family in the US, and that others can participate in this Funeral Mass via the webcam to pray for the repose of the soul of Fr. John. All are welcome.
We are gathered today to pay our respect to the late Fr. John Mullen and on behalf of everyone, those here present, and all those joining us on the webcam, let me offer my condolences to you, Fr. John’s family; to you Eileen and Maureen, to Myles and Joe and your brothers Pat and Colman and to all Fr. John’s nieces and nephews.
You have lost a much loved member of your family and you should know that you will be in our prayers in the coming days and weeks, as we know we will be in yours, for our loss.
Many thank you to Fr. Connolly for having us here today and for his warm welcome.
I had a phone call a few nights ago from Rome !! We have a system when a priest dies that one of our men in Rome sends out a notice to all our members throughout the world (not that we are that many ?)
asking for prayers for the deceased priest and giving some basic details about where he worked during his lifetime. Anyway this man called me to say he couldn’t figure out the name of the place that Johnny was from – Sheanafesteen. He said that he was after searching google maps and no such place existed !!! I assured him that it does indeed exist and that Johnny and all his brothers and sisters and many other people came from there.
In 1952 Johnny made his way to a secondary school that we Rosminians had, in a place called St. Michael’s Omeath Co. Louth. What a long way to go to Secondary School for a young fella from Sheannaphestine. From there he joined the Rosminians in 1958 and was Ordained to the Priesthood in 1967. Immediately he travelled to the Missions in Tanzania, East Africa. Another long pilgrimage in life.
From what I am told Johnny took to it like a duck to water. The local language was Swahili and Johnny became very proficient in it. What a shock it was to him when he was home in Ireland in 1983 and when the then Provincial Fr. Charlie Sullivan called him aside and asked him to leave all his plans aside and take up the role of Chaplin in Rosmini CS. I think I would be bending the truth more than a little bit, by saying that he embraced his new ministry wholeheartedly!
Any man or a woman who has been in Tanzania or any part of East Africa would immediately sympathise with him. He was leaving behind… the great expanse, not only of the physical environment but also the great expanse of ministry. In Tanzania he and all the other missionaries had a scope of ministry that is fairly imaginable now.
One minute you could be travelling on a dirt road up a mountain for a parish out-station, the next minute you could be drilling a well to bring water for vegetables and cattle transforming the lives of villagers – Christian and Muslim. What an enormous canvas on which to make your mark in life.
Suddenly he found himself in a smoke-filled office surrounded by Dublin teenagers. Who needs the wildlife of the Serengeti and the game parks! Suddenly he had all manner of wild young fellas to keep him busy. Now that was a challenge for a real missionary. And a true missionary Johnny turned out to be … despite the unexpected detour in his life. I think he often admitted to himself, it took him a couple of years to settle down in Dublin. But once he got the bit between his teeth he became a real role model for a school chaplain. Johnny’s genius might be …. that he was always on the side of the underdog but somehow managed to navigate a path whereby those in authority did not resent his role or cast him among the malcontents. That’s a pretty tight rope to walk and ‘JJ’ as he was known in the school, did it day in and day out. But to paint Johnny as a rebel would be to do him a grave injustice.
Yes, he was a tremendous advocate for the students, and especially for the underdog, but Johnny was hard working, J was diligent. J was fair. J was principled. J was willing to take kids to all sorts of school activities. He made himself available. He put himself out. He was a team player. He was generous … but he was also astute !! Many a young fella thought he would get a free class away from the Irish or maths teacher on the basis of needing to speak to ‘JJ’ to discuss
some deep existential teenage crisis…. Only to find that ‘JJ’ knew every trick in the book.
For over 20 years Johnny was a constant presence in the school, celebrating the little victories …and present too in the midst of tragedies, of which there are always too many in a school… talking the talk, listening to every troubled soul and walking the walk. I am sure that retirement was bittersweet for him. He loved his ministry to the students, to the teachers and wider staff and to the parents as well. But Galway was always home and I think that he enjoyed the freedom that retirement gave him. Not that he really retired. As always, a missionary, Johnny was generous in making himself available to local parishes and priests in need of a supply priest and I think he particularly loved the opportunity to do that in celebrating Mass in his 1st language, Irish. Indeed, I always had the impression with Johnny that he was much happier conversing with people in Irish or Swahili.
Sadly, as we know he was robbed, like so many others, of that freedom in the last few years. What a tragedy – A tragedy that so many families have faced. And of course, Covid played havoc with his life as it did with the lives of so many others.
‘In every life there is a little sadness’ as the song says … but we have to choose to remember the whole of a person’s life not just part of it. Johnny was a missionary first and foremost. Yes, he loved his Seanfesteen and his native Galway and his heart was always there but … in his heart he was a man who reached out to others …. He lived his faith to the full. He believed that the Lord is the Good Shepherd, the one who walks with people through the valley of darkness, and he did his best to copy that in his own life. He believed that the Lord gave his life for his people, and that he continues to give us his life in the Eucharist and Johnny was a man who sat down with others, like the Lord at the Last Supper and gave his talents and gifts so that people might live life to the full.
Maybe they haven’t heard about Seanfesteen in Rome….. well they have now !! but I am certain it is well known in Heaven !! We give thanks for Johnny’s life, we remember those who loved Johnny and those who cared for him in his later years in An Teaghlach Uilinn, and we pray that God has brough him home to himself to be with his brother Bernard and his parents Patrick and Annie and all the Saints in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Eternal Rest Grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in peace, Amen.