Local Religious life

Lifelong advocate of priests, seminarians added to endowment

Msgr. Mike Mullen performs the ritual of the laying on of hands on Carter Zielinski during his 2018 ordination to the priesthood. Msgr. Mullen, who serves as co-director of seminarians, was recognized as “an amazing promoter of vocations” by the addition of his name to an endowment honoring the late Msgr. Thomas Culhane. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY LORI WOOD HABIGER

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Other priests call Msgr. Michael Mullen “amazing” for what he’s done to promote vocations to the priesthood.

In recognition of this, his name is being added to an endowment honoring the late Msgr. Thomas Culhane. The endowment will be known as the Monsignor Tom Culhane/Monsignor Mike Mullen Endowment.

“Msgr. Mullen is an amazing promoter of vocations,” said Father Scott Wallisch, former archdiocesan director of vocations and now pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee.

And he should know. He and Msgr. Mullen still serve as co-directors of seminarians for the archdiocese and now Msgr. Mullen is his senior associate at St. Joseph as well.

“Whenever there is any vocations event throughout the archdiocese, [Msgr. Mullen] tries his best to be there,” said Father Wallisch. “He mentions vocations in his homilies and prays for vocations regularly. He is an active member of our vocations ministry at St. Joseph Parish.”

Until a couple of years ago, in fact, Msgr. Mullen even traveled with Father Wallisch on his visits to archdiocesan seminarians around the country.

The endowment that will now bear Msgr. Mullen’s name was established in 2007, on the death of Msgr. Culhane. It was intended to honor his life and legacy, as he was well-known for nurturing vocations and supporting seminarians.

Msgr. Thomas Culhane

It now seems proper to honor Msgr. Mullen as well, said John Caton, co-founder of the endowment with the late Bernie Madden.

“Msgr. Mullen, like Msgr. Culhane, is a distinguished priest who taught and supported seminarians,” said Caton. “It was natural to honor them together, because both men are worthy of honor and love for all they’ve done.”

To celebrate the lives and ministries of the two men, there will be a Mass at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. on Sept. 16 at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee.  There is no cost to attend the dinner, which is sponsored by the endowment trustees and the Knights of Columbus.

Msgr. Mullen talks with parishioners virtually during a “Holy Dessert” segment he created in 2020. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY JAY SOLDNER

Msgr. Culhane was ordained a priest in 1947. He was appointed archdiocesan vocations director in 1952. In addition to serving as pastor at several parishes, he served as rector of Savior of the World Seminary in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1965 to 1973.

Realizing that many seminarians did not have resources to cover all their expenses, each Christmas or birthday, Msgr. Culhane would send a small gift of cash to them — something that was both practical and a morale booster.

Msgr. Mullen was ordained in 1962. He served for 22 years at Savior of the World Seminary as principal, rector and teacher. When the seminary closed in 1987, the archdiocesan minor seminary program was moved to Maur Hill-Mount Academy in Atchison, where he served as seminarian chaplain.

Msgr. Mullen then served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish from 1995 until 2018, when he was assigned to St. Joseph and remained co-director of seminarians.

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, right, presents the St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Award to Msgr. Michael Mullen, at Sacred Heart Church in Mound City, in 2012 during Msgr. Mullen’s 50th year as a priest. LEAVEN FILE PHOTO BY JESSICA LANGDON

“Whereas some of us priests would be taking it easy in retirement, Msgr. Mullen continues to work hard and be a good example of the priesthood,” said Father Wallisch.

“People at the parish adore him because of his joy, and humor, and kindness,” he added. “That alone is a great recruitment tool for the priesthood. When young men see a happy, healthy priest, the priesthood is more attractive as a possible vocation. He’s a good reminder to me of the joy of the priesthood when I’m tempted to be Father Crabby-pants.”

Since 2007, donors to the endowment have grown the principal to $98,924. About 5% of the endowment is used each year to provide cash gifts to seminarians at Christmas. Last year, each seminarian received more than $3,000.

To attend the Sept. 16 event, RSVP by email to Rick Evard, chairman of the endowment, at: evardr@bsk.com, or call him at (913) 481-4809. The endowment is managed by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas.

To contribute to the endowment, contact the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas by calling (913) 647-3062, or by email at: cfnek@archkck.org.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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