DIVINE Word Missionaries Father Gerard Mulholland, in the months leading up to his death from Motor Neurone Disease in Sydney, expressed a desire to be buried from his beloved St Mark’s Parish, Inala.
“I’ve really loved Inala … the people there, and the kids, they’ve all been great,” the late-vocation priest had once told a close friend.
“It’s a vibrant parish …
“Actually, that’s where I want to be buried from.”
On the morning of Tuesday, December 2, that wish was granted.
A vast number of fellow priests, St Mark’s parishioners, school staff and students packed St Mark’s Church to farewell the 58-year-old priest who had worked so faithfully and memorably with them.
Divine Word Missionaries provincial superior Fr Henry Adler was the principal celebrant with about 35 priests concelebrating, including a number of Fr Mulholland’s congregation confreres from across Australia.
Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge did the farewell commendation.
Prayers of the faithful were read by St Mark’s School principal Garry Montgomery who had become a close friend of Fr Mulholland’s during his nearly four years as parish priest.
St Stephen’s Cathedral dean Fr David Pascoe, in his eulogy, spoke of his “good mate” in a friendship spanning 25 years.
“But he was not only a friend to me; we simply look around us today, and know that he was a friend to many, many people,” he said.
Fr Pascoe then outlined his friend’s life from his young days in Maryborough when he was an altar boy, through to his work with Queensland Rail, the Queensland Ambulance Service, Australia Post and with mining companies as a workplace health and safety officer.
There was also his work with the St Vincent de Paul Society as regional president.
Fr Mulholland’s crucial decision to become a priest was also mentioned.
“At one time the national St Vincent de Paul Society asked Gerard to go to Papua New Guinea to help during a time of severe drought,” Fr Pascoe said.
“He also assisted in Aitape after a tsunami destroyed the area.
“It was while he was in PNG that Gerard decided to join the Society of the Divine Word.”
“Gerard’s sister Mary recalls that he took to his formation with the Divine Word Missionaries as he did with most things, ‘fully committed and with great eagerness’,” Fr Pascoe said.
Fr Mulholland’s ordination at St Mark’s, Inala, in 2006 would ensure the parish always held a special place in his heart.
After his ordination, he left for PNG’s Mt Hagen archdiocese to become assistant priest and chaplain to the Holy Trinity Teachers’ College.
Injury forced Fr Mulholland to move back to Australia in late 2009 when he became director of the Janssen Spirituality Centre in Boronia, Victoria.
In 2011, he returned to Queensland and took over as administrator of St Cecelia’s Parish, Hamilton, and was also appointed parish priest at St Mark’s.
Fr Pascoe quoted the Divine Word Missionaries priest’s confreres who described having Fr Mulholland as one of the few Australian-born congregation members “as a great blessing”.
“He had the knowledge and disposition to convey just what it is to be Australian,” they said.
“In this regard he was a great resource to SVDs who have come here from other parts of the world.”
Fr Pascoe quoted Fr Mulholland’s sister Mary and brother Paul.
“They say this: ‘We will miss the dry sense of humour, the fantastic stories, the hilarious jokes, the congenial manner, his persistence and persuasive nature, and will remember with pride, as his brother and sister, the courage and humour (which he could still muster in his last days), as he faced his final challenge.’”
“And the last word is left then to Gerard himself, a man of the Divine Word,” Fr Pascoe said.
“‘As priests and Christians, if we preach that we’ve got to accept the crosses that we’re given, and then if I don’t accept the cross myself, I’m a bit of a hypocrite.
“‘And so I’ve accepted this cross. If I thought that this was the end and there’s nothing after this, then I’d be going through a terrible time now.
“‘Instead, I can really say, and mean it, that I’m looking forward to heaven.’”
Fr Mulholland died in Sydney’s Macquarie University Hospital on November 26.
He was interred in the Divine Word Missionaries section of Nudgee Cemetery.