by Jessica Langdon
MOUND CITY — A century before Mother Teresa encouraged all to do “small things with great love,” a saint who lived in Kansas expressed a similar thought.
“God does not require great achievements,” said St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, “but a heart that holds back nothing for self.”
Msgr. Michael Mullen, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Kansas City, Kan., has actually achieved a great many things in his 50 years as a priest.
But it is the way in which he has done them that won him recognition on Nov. 18.
When Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann presented the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award to Msgr. Mullen that day, he described the priest as a perfect example of what this award is about.
Father Regie Saldanha, pastor of Sacred Heart in Mound City, St. Philip Neri in Osawatomie and Our Lady of Lourdes in La Cygne concurred.
“These words of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne describe very aptly the life and work of Msgr. Mike Mullen for the past 50 years in our archdiocese,” he said.
Education, vocation, devotion
The Mound City parish began presenting this award to individuals or groups in 2006, honoring those who promote Catholic education, vocations to the priesthood and religious life, or devotion to St. Rose.
Msgr. Mullen’s work exemplifies commitment to all three, said Father Saldanha.
The young Father Mullen started off his priesthood as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Church and as chaplain of Immaculata High School in Leavenworth.
Two years later, he launched a 22-year tenure at Savior of the World Seminary in Kansas City, Kan., where he served as rector, principal and teacher.
He was later assigned to Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, where he taught and served as seminarian chaplain.
Finally, he encouraged vocations for 25 years as chaplain of the Serra Club in Kansas City, Kan., and today he works as the archdiocesan co-director of seminarians.
But the Kansas City, Kan., native’s devotion to St. Rose didn’t blossom until he served as a pastor near her Sugar Creek mission in the early 1990s.
In his homily, Archbishop Naumann explained how the readings at the close of the liturgical year serve as reminders that life on this earth is always passing away and that it’s vital to use time in ways that truly glorify God.
“I think the saints are of great help to us,” he said, pointing to the example of St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, the only saint to live and work here in the archdiocese.
Sister Rose and her fellow missionaries came to America from France in 1818 to establish an American presence of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Her devotion to education and to encouraging religious life, however, was what made Msgr. Mullen a particularly appropriate recipient for an award named in her honor.
“It is the most thoughtful award, one very meaningful to me,” said Msgr. Mullen, whose admiration for the saint has grown over the years.
“While I was aware of Blessed and then Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne earlier in my priesthood,” he said, “it was really during my five years as pastor of Sacred Heart in Ottawa from 1990-95 that I became much closer to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne’s life, her holiness and her ministry in Linn County at Sugar Creek among the Potawatomi Indians.”
During those years, Msgr. Mullen spent many hours at the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Memorial Park outside Mound City for retreats, Masses and picnics and shared the story of the saint with many groups of adults and children.
“St. Rose was a pioneer in establishing the religious life of Sisters in the United States,” he said.
Saint for all ages
Msgr. Mullen also praised the leadership of Sacred Heart Parish in promoting the memory of St. Rose, as well as the efforts of the people who take care of the park and shrine.
People in the community look forward to the annual Mass, dinner and celebration focusing on St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, and Msgr. Mullen was thrilled to see this tradition woven into children’s lives today as a memory they’ll build upon as they continue to learn more about their faith and St. Rose.
“I think it’s a beautiful way for a parish simply to celebrate its patron saint,” he said.