There was deep and profound sadness in the Claregalway area as the news spread on Friday morning of the untimely passing of Claregalway Parish Priest, Very Reverend Noel Canon Mullin. A simple man he was Fr Noel to everyone.
Having replaced the long serving parish priest the late Canon Gerard Callanan, there was much apprehension among parishioners as to what the new priest would be like. There was no need for them to worry as Fr Noel, quickly settled into his new administration and it wasn’t long until he became a friend to almost every parishioner in the parish.
Fr Noel had a gentle approach that made him tremendously popular among his peers and parishioners. Fr Noel was a native of Shrule just across the Mayo border. He attended St Mary’s College, Galwaybefore taking up further studies in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. On June 23rd 1963, at a time when Galway was focused on the visit to Ireland and Galway of the late President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Fr Noel Mullin was ordained to the priesthood. His first appointment was as a curate in Rossaveal and a year later Fr Noel took up an appointment as a curate in Gort. In 1965 he was moved to St Mary’s College, Galway as Dean and remained there for three years. He was then moved to take on the role as chaplain to Merlin Park Hospital where he remained until 1972, when he was appointed as Chaplain of the new Regional Technical College and Holy Family School. In 1981 Fr Noel was back on parish duties when he was appointed as curate in Galway Cathedral and served there for six years until 1987 when he was appointed as Diocesan Secretary for the Galway Diocese.
In 1996 Fr Noel Mullin took up the appointment as parish priest of Claregalway succeeding Canon Gerard Callanan who had then retired. Following many years away from duties in a rural parish, Fr Noel took on his new challenge with tremendous faith and courage. He would soon become an inspirational leader and had a tremendous way about him in getting other people to help. He was easy to talk to and with his pleasing and unassuming personality he quickly had people all around him anytime he looked for help.
Full houses began to emerge for Masses in Claregalway as Fr Noel’s simple sermons became meaningful for everybody. He never looked for money but collections doubled as he began to develop the church grounds. An extension to the church car park was followed by the building of the Claregalway Mortuary Chapel and meeting room. People in the parish had no need to travel to Galway for funerals and the Mortuary Chapel became available to all undertakers and the meeting room to all organizations.
The special festive occasions in the church became very meaningful to the congregation as the Easter Garden, Advent trees, Lent Crucifix and so many other little tokens provided a special meaning to everybody. The numbers of readers, collectors, Eucharist ministers all increased and Fr Noel had a wonderful way about him in teaching Mass servers. He was also responsible for the development of the Apostolic Work Society and the Young Priest Society and he was richly proud of Claregalway where in excess of two hundred people were working in a voluntary capacity in church activity.
Fr Noel Mullin was appointed a Canon to the Diocesan Chapter in 1997 and was appointed Vicar Vorane for Galway Rural Deanery in 2008.
Last June Fr Noel announced to the people of Claregalway that he was to have medical tests and asked people to pray for him. In August Fr Noel went for surgery and everyone expected that he would be back in full health in a short time. However Fr Noel was struck with further illness and word filtered that the gentle Claregalway pastor had been diagnosed with serious illness and finally lost his battle with illness on Friday last.
His funeral was one of the biggest seen in Claregalway as people filed all day from early morning past his remains that lay in Claregalway Mortuary Chapel as local people took turns all day in helping people and providing refreshments. On Sunday evening the remains of Fr Noel were removed from Claregalway Mortuary Chapel to the Church of the Assumption and St James, Claregalway where they were received by Most Reverend Dr Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway and Most Reverend Dr John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert. His long time curate and friend Fr Ian O’Neill placed the book of gospels and the crucifix on his coffin as Claregalway folk choir sang. Among the attendance at his funeral was Most Reverend Dr Brendan Kelly, Bishop of Achonry and Most Reverend Dr Eamon Casey, former Bishop of Galway.
At the funeral Mass for Very Reverend Noel Canon Mullin, the Church of the Assumption and St James, Claregalway overflowed with people as chief celebrant Most Rev. Dr Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway, was joined on the altar by Fr Seamus Nohilly, SMA, Claregalway and Diocesan classmates Fr Michael Mulkerrins, Renmore, Canon John O’Dwyer, Oranmore and Canon Richard Tarpey, Ennistymon.
They were joined by Fr Thomas Marrinan, Gort; Monsignor Malachy Hallinan, Sacred Heart, Galway: Canon Paddy Callanan, Kilbecanty/Peterswell; Fr Jim Walsh, Kilmeena, Westport; Fr Sean Kilcoyne, Chaplain Bons Secures, Renmore; Fr Joe Keogh, Ardrahan, Fr Willie Cummins, Mervue; Fr Denis Crosby, Liscannor; Fr Martin Costello, SMA; Fr Bernard Mulkerrins, Columban Fathers; Fr Richie Higgins, Ardrahan; Fr Martin Moran, Killanin; Fr Dick Lyng, OSA; Fr Gerry Jennings, Salthill; Fr Paddy Considine, Rosmuc; Fr Gus O’Brien, MSC, Ballinfoile; Fr Padraig Breheny, OFM; Fr Peter Rabbitte, Lisdoonvarna; Canon Michael Kelly, Craughwell; Fr Martin Glynn, Good Shepherd Doughiska; Fr Colm Clinton SPS Carron/New Quay; Fr Martin Downey, St Joseph’s; Fr Ned Crosby, Kilfenora; Canon Frank Larkin, Kinvara; Fr Bernard Duffy, Oranmore; Fr Ned Kelly, Clarenbridge; Fr Tom Brady, Garrison, Renmore; Fr Michael Murphy, Roundfort; Fr Christy O’Connor, Craughwell; Canon Eamon Dermody, Clarinbridge; Fr Leo Morahan, Louisburg; Fr Tony King, Athenry; Fr Diarmuid Hogan, NUIG; Fr Tadhg Quinn, Knocknacarra; Monsignor Sean Flaherty, Cathedral; Fr Oliver Hughes, Corofin; Fr Joe Roche, Kilchreest; Fr Des Walsh, Lackagh; Fr Michael Connolly, Bushypark; Fr Peter Joyce, Maree; Fr Martin Keane, Kilcornan; Fr Gearóid Ó Griofa, Ballybane; Fr Eamon Mangan, Pallotine Fathers; Fr Eddie Aughney, St Mullins, Kildare & Leighlin; Fr John Cotter, St Patrick’s Cork; Fr Pat Lynch, Tubbercurry, Sligo; Fr Hughie Loftus, Currandulla; Monsignor Leonard O’Brien, Clonakilty, Cork; Fr Dan O’Neill, SMA; Fr Murchadh O Madagain, Renmore; Fr Ned Casey, SMA Kinvara; Fr Conor Cunningham, Salthill; Monsignor Gerry Dolan, Sligo; Fr Michael Sheerin, Lobinstown, Co Meath; Fr Enda Condon, Waterford; Fr Michael Flannery, Inverin; Fr Peter Waldron, Ballyvary; Fr Martin Newell, Claran; Fr David Cribbin, UCHG; Fr Michael Crosby, Shrule; Fr Paddy Heneghan, Oughterard; Fr John O’Boyle, Tuam; Fr Sean McHugh, An Spideal; Fr Barry Horan, Galway Marriage Tribunal and Fr Frank Lee, Gort.
Fr Noel’s nephew Micheál Mullins welcomed everybody and told numerous family stories of his life. He spoke of his wonderful interest in photography, his love of the pets and his wonderful way with children, especially with his nieces and nephews. Micheál added that as the nephews and nieces grew up, they realized the value of the uncle they had as Fr Noel was a wonderful listener, a good friend and a wise advisor. He added his special thanks on behalf of the family to the community in Claregalway for their support, to Fr Ian O’Neill who was a wonderful friend, to his housekeeper Maudie and Secretary Teresa. He also thanked all the medical team for their help and his two wonderful friends, Fr Mulkerrins and Sr de Lourda.
In his homily Most Rev. Dr Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway described Fr Noel as a wonderful caring priest who served God and his people well. He had touched the lives of thousands during his long priestly live and added that people saw the beauty in Fr Noel’s life. He added that Fr Noel had a very positive outlook on life and told the people of Claregalway as he went for surgery that he wasn’t absconding; he was just going for a little surgery. Fr Noel’s always said “Don’t worry, it mightn’t happen and if it does, don’t worry, it won’t be too bad”. However in Fr Noel’s case it was bad and he didn’t return to Claregalway, instead he joined his God. Bishop Drennan extended sincere sympathy to Fr Noel’s family.
Claregalway senior and junior choirs sang at the funeral Mass and people wept openly as Fr Noel was leaving Claregalway church for the last time. People of Claregalway formed a guard of honour and escorted his remains to the end of the village as the remains of Fr Noel made the final journey to his home in Shrule. A number of complimentary buses were supplied by local bus company Callanan Coaches to bring priests and people from Claregalway to Shrule and back to Claregalway. Fr Noel was buried with his parents in Shrule cemetery.
Very Reverend Noel Canon Mullin, Claregalway Parish Priest, is survived by his brothers, Joe (Shrule), Frank (Galway and Shrule), Paschal (Glencorrib), sisters-in-law, nephews, nieces, extended family, Bishop Martin Drennan, Priests of Galway Diocese, parishioners, and a very large circle of relatives and friends.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.