Fr Seán Mulligan, a native of Knockatallon in the Parish of Tydavnet, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Clogher by Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor in St Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan, on Sunday 1 July 2018. Aged 47, Fr Mulligan is the son of the late Michael and Philomena Mulligan. His two brothers, Paul and Michael, together with other family members were present to witness their brother’s ordination. Priests from all over the diocese and further afield were present also, including the Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness and Bishops Joseph Duffy and Liam MacDaid, Bishops-Emeritus of Clogher. Deacons Martin Donnelly and Kevin Connolly served at the tables of the Word and Eucharist. The new priest was presented for ordination by the Parish Priest of Tydavnet, Fr Brian Early.
Fr Mulligan was educated at St. Joseph’s N.S, Knockatallon, and Beech Hill College, Monaghan, before obtaining a National Diploma in Civil Engineering from Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT). After working for three years in the concrete business, Fr Seán took up a post with Monaghan GAA, coaching the skills of Gaelic Football and Hurling to primary school children in the north-Monaghan area. It was during this period that he felt a renewed inner-desire to serve God through the priesthood, but he chose instead to pursue a career in Intellectual Disability Nursing through DKIT and St. Mary’s Residential Centre, Drumcar, Co. Louth. He spent five years working as a staff nurse in St. Mary’s before finally answering the call to priesthood, entering formal studies for the Diocese of Clogher. Fr Mulligan completed his studies at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The Rector of the Irish College, Monsignor Ciarán O’Carroll was among the concelebrants at the ordination.
In addition, Fr Seán is well-known throughout the GAA in Co Monaghan. He is an avid sports fan, and a devoted follower of his home club, Scotstown GFC, and the Monaghan county teams. He represented his club, Scotstown, at all levels, winning two Monaghan Senior Football Championships with them in 1992 and 1993. He has also represented Monaghan county at Vocational Schools’, Minor, U’21, and senior level. He is also a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.
Welcoming Fr Seán’s ordination, the Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness said: ‘Sean’s answer to God’s call is great grace and joy to the whole diocese. The positive response to the call by Christ to his Priesthood is a powerful witness, especially in today’s culture. We thank God for this great gift. All of us look forward to ministering to God’s people in the diocese alongside Fr Mulligan’. Mgr McGuinness went on to assure those listening that while the priesthood is challenging it is rewarding and very joyful. ‘It is not a lonely place to be, despite what we are being told by some in our society today. Ministering to and with God’s people is a joy and one to which Fr Seán and others considering the call, will be made welcome’, he said.
The following is the text of the homily given by Bishop Noel Treanor at the Ordination Mass:
Called to serve the mystery of salvation in the priesthood of Christ
As the sacred liturgy now approaches the moment of your ordination to the Priesthood, Sean, you and we are aware of the supportive presence of your brothers, family, relatives, neighbours, friends, priests, religious, the numerous lay volunteers and parishioners, and the representatives of those who contributed to your personal, spiritual and academic formation for your life and work as a priest. Together with you I welcome all of them and I thank them for the support they have given you and will continue to give you in the years of your future ministry. I welcome in particular Monsignor Ciaran O’Carroll, Rector of the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, where you studied, Sean, and the representatives of St Joseph’s Young Priests Society who have assisted so many in their years of training for the priesthood.
I should also like to thank Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Administrator of the diocese of Clogher, for the gracious invitation to return to St Macartan’s cathedral and to Monaghan, where I once served as a curate and hospital chaplain over three decades ago! It is a privilege to join with you all on this grace-filled occasion.
As you know, Sean, after the liturgy of the Word and before the celebration of the Sacrament of Holy Orders the rite of Ordination foresees and includes an Instruction. In a short text that Instruction sets out a Charter for the life and work of a priest. Indeed any priest, cleric or religious might well take it as a vademecum, a companion text, for prayerful reflection on the one’s response to the vocation to ministry.
Like all priests, religious, deacons and parish volunteers, you are first and foremost responding to a call from God to serve the continuing work of salvation in human history. You, Sean, are called to a vocation to serve as a priest the mystery of the divine initiative and process of salvation which we proclaim, celebrate and live out as a Christian community in concrete work and actions in the conditions of our time and generation.
In this regard the Instruction in the Rite of Ordination to the Priesthood highlights three constituent elements of priestly vocation:
• You are called to share the Word of God, the Good News, which you have received with all mankind and to do so joyfully
• You are called to celebrate and lead the celebration of the sacred liturgy and the celebration of the sacraments with genuine joy and love for God and for people
• Working together with the pastor of the local Church, the bishop, your thought and objective must always be to build, nourish and “to bring the faithful together in a unified family” and “to seek out and rescue those who are lost”
As we move towards the moment of your Ordination, let us consider briefly each of these elements of priestly ministry.
“Share with all mankind the Word of God”
The Instruction ranks the proclamation of the Word of God and teaching in the name of Christ as your first task and duty as a priest, Sean. Here in the cathedral and seat of this diocese in which you will serve, you receive and accept that priestly task. You do so having listened to the lines of the first reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 61.1-3). That very text is the one chosen by Jesus as the Charter with which he initiated his public ministry in his home Synagogue in Nazareth (Lk 4.16-22).
In taking up the call to priestly ministry you share in the centuries-old and perennially creative mission of making known the Good News of salvation for humanity and for the human condition. You are called to make known from the inspired literature of both the Hebrew Bible/ Old Testament and of the New Testament the insights of religious faith for life and for living and specifically for the human condition in this era – God’s time and your time : this, Sean, is a key part of the sweat and toil of your desk work week in and week, so that you know, grapple with and unveil the spiritual pertinence for life today of the Word of God which you are to proclaim.
This same Word of God, as the first reading itself insists, is proclaimed not just in preaching and teaching. It is proclaimed decisively by action and involvement in the human condition, and especially by attending to the needs of people who are in need, in trouble and suffering in whatever way, as these lines from Isaiah point out. This Charter chosen by Christ for his own mission, and lived out by Him as he engaged for example in that intriguing and restorative discussion with the Samaritan lady at Jacob’s well near the village of Sychar (Jn. 4. 1-30), is a challenging invitation to practise a pastoral approach of encounter, discernment and encouragement as the norm of your ministry, rather than the sometimes tempting route of facile disengagement from or abandonment of life’s complexities, or worse still, of simplistic condemnation of the those who are lost or silently suffering in heart, soul or mind.
Reaching into and engaging with the peripheries of human existence, Pope Francis has reminded Christians, is central the work of the Church and to priestly ministry. Our words and actions cannot create new peripheries; rather, as the Instruction for Ordination puts it, we priests are to seek out the lost and to rescue them. And as you know, Sean, rescue work of any kind, and especially in the realm of the spiritual, requires much ongoing, indeed life-long training; it requires years of experience and good team work with skilled colleagues and mentors both lay and clerical. The gospel requirement to reach out to and save the lost, the disoriented, the troubled in soul, scuttles any inclination to think of the Church as the preserve or paradise only of the saved. As pastor, Sean, out of a knowledge of Christ and indeed of your own humanity, you are called always to speak words of Christian hope to all whom you encounter, saint and sinner alike.
“Imitate the mystery you celebrate”
The Instruction’s second admonition, namely, that you imitate what you celebrate and that you celebrate the liturgy and the sacraments with love for God and for the people draws our attention to the heart and centre of Christian life and existence – the saving mystery of God’s love for humanity revealed to us in the historical person, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Your mission as a priest, Sean, is to lead people individually and as a Christian community to experience, appreciate and know the reality of the saving mystery of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Son of Mary. This focus on the person and mystery of Christ as the revelation in history of God and of Godliness is a vital component for evangelisation in our times. The option to live the Christian life and to aspire to live the self-sacrificing and life-giving love at the heart of divine love, which Christians seek to emulate in their moral and ethical choices, is a way of life that is grounded in and sustained by a living relationship with the person of Christ. The choice to live the Christian life in the community of the Church, is a choice that is made and re-made by Christians in the course of life. That choice is sustained primarily by minds and hearts expanded, illuminated and renewed by the Word of God; it is enriched and deepened by celebrating the mystery of salvation in the liturgy and in the sacraments; and it is lived out and further energised by the religious and spiritual vitality and by the social involvement of the Christian community, for which as a priest you have daily care and responsibility.
As you tend and energise the life of the Christian community to which you are assigned, as priest and pastor, one needs always to attend to the heartbeat of all who approach us, whether by distant cry or proximately, in whatever need or state of soul, for the sacred mysteries you celebrate and minister make present in time God’s self-emptying love, the perennially present mystery of the divine unconditional self-insertion in the human condition with its ambivalence and frailty.
Bringing the faithful together in a unified family
In the course of your formation, you have experienced in a particularly enriching way the challenge of emulating that divine self-giving, Sean, when you worked with Fr Peter McVerry S.J. in his outreach to the homeless and to many others on the peripheries of life in Dublin. I pray that that experience will continue to inspire and shape your ministry in the years ahead, for the forthcoming decades will require that expansiveness of priestly heart and mind, which you experienced with Fr McVerry and his teams of co-workers. The cultivation of that expansiveness of heart and mind is a pre-condition of priestly ministry today in order to evangelise in an ever more complex world and cosmos in which the super-accelerated buzz of multi-media and multi-mediated conversations bespeak already a whispered quest for terms of reference, for anchor points of meaning, for a renewed and a societally re-appropriated value system. It will fall to you and priests of your generation and younger to conjugate in new forms of proactive co-responsible and collaborative ministries with lay parishioners and volunteers the living Christian tradition with the conditions, questions and insights of the coming decades so that the cultural humus of the times ahead may be enriched and illuminated with the light of the gospel.
In that venture over the coming decades, you will see, I am convinced, many rich developments in the life of the Church. Like the Permanent Diaconate, which recently ordained Deacon Martin Donnelly represents here today, new forms of Christian life and ministry will emerge under the impulse of the Holy Spirit. With the bishop of the diocese it will be your vocation to discern and to foster imaginatively such “gifts”, to use the language of the second reading from the letter to the Ephesians. The commandment of the “new love”, the subject of the gospel text (Jn 15.9-17) for this liturgy, requires that “we attend to the concerns of Christ before our own”, to cite the words of the Ordination Instruction. This means that as priests we must constantly seek to re-focus and align our personal priestly compass on the person and heart of Christ who conversed with all, who loved the sinner, who suffered injustice to the point of death, who promised eternity to the repentant thief and who was raised to a new life, a life which Christians already enjoy in part through baptism and through the celebration of the sacraments.
Sean, as a priest, you are a herald of salvation, a messenger of joyful Good News. You are called to live, think and minister as one who shares the restorative Good News of the gospel, as one who reaches out to all without exception, as one who offers the gift of a radically new hope for humanity, that hope sourced in the risen Christ.
On this your Ordination day, we wish you a long life of humble service to and together with the people and parishioners to whom you will be assigned. You will work in the culturally rich, historical and living tradition of this diocese of Clogher : may your ministry be enriched by those who have gone before us – your parents and deceased relatives and not least, by St. Macartan, parton of this local Church and by St Caillin/Cillin, companion of St Patrick and eponymous figure of local Christian memory, prayer and cult, evoked in the name of your native heath, Knockatallon, who set his seat at Tehallen, terrain of my childhood, a short distance from this cathedral.
On behalf of the faithful, clergy and retired bishops of the diocese of Clogher and on behalf of Monsignor Joseph McGuinness, Administrator of the diocese, I thank once again all at the Royal and Pontifical English College of St Alban, Valladolid, at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, and at the Pontifical Irish College, Rome, who have prepared and trained you, Sean, for a life of Christian service that is the priesthood of Jesus Christ.