Father Mulligan will return to his roots - Catholic Courier

Father Mulligan will return to his roots

Soon after graduating from the seminary, Father John M. Mulligan found his learning had just begun.

He said each of the 10 parishes at which he has served during his 44-year vocation has taught him something new.

"You are still learning all the time from people," said Father Mulligan, 69.

As he prepares to retire from the pastorate of Rochester’s Cathedral Community in June, Father Mulligan said he hopes to continue learning through one-on-one ministry with people in such places as hospitals and jails. He said the work would be a return to what he did when he was first ordained.

"When I was first ordained, I think we did a tremendous amount of one-on-one ministry," Father Mulligan said.

Over time, however, he gradually accepted more and more administrative responsibilities, including being the first-ever moderator of the diocesan Pastoral Center from 1988-98. In 1988, he also was named one of two diocesan vicars general; in this position he assists and consults with Bishop Matthew H. Clark and will continue to do so after retirement. He said he also plans to spend more time with family, reading, praying and gardening.

Father Mulligan has served as assistant pastor of Immaculate Conception, Ithaca (1964-66); St. Patrick, Corning (1966-71) and St. Mary, Auburn (1971-73); copastor of St. John the Evangelist Church, Rochester (1973-81); and pastor of St. Stephen, Geneva (1981-83); St. Anthony of Padua, Rochester (1983-88); Most Precious Blood, Rochester (1998-2000); and Sacred Heart Cathedral (2000 to the present). He also served as the head of the diocesan division of Urban Ministry from 1983-88. In 2005, he became pastor of the Cathedral Community, which comprising the cathedral and Holy Rosary and Most Precious Blood parishes.

Father Mulligan credits attending Mass as a youngster as an important influence in his call to the priesthood. As he and his brother Charlie began to express an interest in the priesthood, his father, a public-school graduate, decided to move all five of his children from the public schools they attended to Catholic schools.

After graduating from Sacred Heart Grammar School, Father Mulligan attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester. He was ordained at Sacred Heart Cathedral on June 6, 1964, by Bishop Lawrence B. Casey, then an auxiliary bishop of the Rochester Diocese.

Father Mulligan said he found it helpful to keep an open mind about parishes and to try to get as much experience as possible.

"When I started out as a priest, I said yes to pretty much everything that came along, so that I would have a wide variety of experiences," Father Mulligan said.

That variety has included shepherding his flock through a five-year, $11 million and sometimes contentious renovation of the cathedral and the recent closings of Holy Rosary and Most Precious Blood parishes; serving on the Selection of Bishops Committee; creating the diocesan Stewardship Council; and leading the Pastoral Planning for the New Millennium initiative.

Father Mulligan said one theme of his ministry has been to encourage his fellow Catholics to focus less on tangible objects and more on Jesus Christ, who spent his ministry on the move.

"We tend to get attached to statues and buildings," the priest remarked.

Noting that he has lived in 11 different rectories and worked in 10 different assignments over the course of 44 years, Father Mulligan said that moving frequently has taught him that change can be difficult, but also can provide new opportunities.

"Although our Lord Jesus is always unchanging, our church itself is always subject to change," he said. "Right now it is in a real period of change, which can be devastating or exciting."

Father Mulligan said he believes changes within the Cathedral Community will help the community find stability in its diverse neighborhood.

"We tried to see ourselves as an anchor, or one of the anchors, in the neighborhood, and we try to be a very visible presence," he said.

Noting that it takes the support of hundreds to bring about such big changes as church renovation, Father Mulligan said many have helped him carry out his work as a priest.

"It is the staff and parishioners with whom you minister that really bring joy to the priesthood," he said.

He said bishops and priests with whom he has worked also have helped increase his joy in being a priest.

"They bring that joy and hope and that sustenance," Father Mulligan said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Father Mulligan will preach at each of the Masses June 21 and 22 at Sacred Heart Cathedral and a parish farewell picnic in his honor will follow the 11:15 Mass June 22.


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