Inspiring courage: Monsignor Ray Mullan celebrates 60 years of the priesthood
MANSFIELD — As a young boy, Raymund Mullan stole a penny from his mother. “That penny started to burn a hole in my pocket,” he told the North Texas Catholic. During confession, he feared anger and judgment from the priest and from God. Even years later, Mullan thought that priests became angry during confession.
“[Hearing] my first confession cured me of that,” he said. On June 29, 1962, Mullan was ordained a priest in the Archdiocese of Pretoria, South Africa. A few hours after his ordination, someone asked Fr. Mullan to hear her confession. “I don’t remember a single word she said, but I do recall what I felt. I felt a deep, deep compassion for this woman, an intense family love…. I was feeling God’s love for her flowing through me.”
On June 29, Monsignor Ray Mullan celebrated his 60th anniversary to the priesthood. As a testament to the contagious joy and perseverance with which he inspires courage and builds up community wherever he goes, many faithful from across the Diocese of Fort Worth attended two Masses and receptions in his honor on June 28 at St. Patrick Cathedral and June 29 at St. Jude in Mansfield.
When he served in South Africa, Fr. Mullan was involved in many ministries, including radio broadcasts, as a vocations director, and as a chaplain to inmates on death row. One notable achievement was the building of a badminton court next to St. John Fisher Parish just outside of Pretoria.
“He called it a parish hall,” said Father Glen Mullan, a priest of the Diocese of Corpus Christi who knows Raymund Mullan as “Uncle Ray.” According to Fr. Glen, this badminton court/parish hall exemplified his uncle’s way of evangelization: “…you have to gather the people first, and through that you bring the Gospel.”
Fr. Mullan also ministered to soldiers during a war. Despite pushback from the South African government, “Fr. Mullan remained focused upon Christ and fulfilled his ministry with integrity….” said Bishop Michael Olson in his June 28 homily.
In 1989, with the approval of his archbishop, Fr. Mullan moved to the Diocese of Fort Worth where he continued serving as a “faithful priest” — first as associate pastor at St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills, then at Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton, and finally as pastor at St. Mary Parish in Graham and St. Theresa Parish in Olney.
On his priestly anniversary in 1994, Fr. Mullan was incardinated in the Fort Worth Diocese. On March 27, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI conferred on him the title of Monsignor.
Jeannine and Duane Wendel, who attended St. Mary during Msgr. Mullan’s 23-year tenure there, gushed about his contagious joy. “He baptized our children and gave them all their sacraments,” said Jeannine. “He glows!”
In 2014, Msgr. Mullan retired to Mansfield due to health difficulties. There he assisted as a supply priest at several parishes, especially St. Jude.
“I remember him coming every day in his wheelchair,” said 13-year-old Sarah Idemudiah, a parishioner at St. Jude. “He came to Mass even when it was hard for him to walk.”
In 2021, Msgr. Mullan nearly died of a heart attack and a pulmonary embolism. But he emerged victorious. “This was a miracle,” he told the NTC. “I came out of rehab better and stronger than I had been a year before.”
Msgr. Mullan remains active. Julie Cosby, business manager of St. Jude, said, “He says Mass in [Legend of Mansfield, a senior living community where he resides] for the residents regularly and attends St. Jude on some Sundays and during certain holy days.”
On June 29, at his 60th anniversary Mass at St. Jude Parish, Msgr. Mullan used a walker, a wheelchair, and occasional assistance from his fellow priests — including his nephew, Fr. Glen Mullan, during Mass. The celebratory Mass featured music composed by Msgr. Mullan himself — the Mass of Maria Regina, as well as the songs “Lord, Forgive Me” and “Ave Maria.”
Music leaders Pam Rodrigues and Leonardo Zuno directed the choir. “I’ve heard him improvise before, and [the Mass] has the beautiful quality of his improvisations,” said Zuno.
In his retirement, Msgr. Mullan began sharing in his homilies the story of that first confession, the one where he felt like a conduit of God’s love.
“Each time, people would come up to me and say, ‘For the first time, I’ve received the courage to go to confession.’”
He recently recounted the tale at a 60th anniversary dinner with Bishop Olson and many diocesan priests. “I’m sharing it with you, brothers, because the people want to hear your stories,” he explained. “They need to hear them, and you need to tell them.”