Fr Tony Mulderry was ordained on 18 June 1967 and he departed for Miami that summer. It was a path that had been trod before him by Fr Tom McDermott, a classmate of Bishop McCormack who died in 1969 and Fr John Kellaghan who died in 1981. And indeed Fr Michael Kelly also took the same route a year after Fr Tony. I am certain he will tell you that he had not a clue what he was getting into and while it may have been rather exciting on one level, going half way around the world, it must have had its fears as well. And to land in a culture and a society that unlike now was a good deal different from what he had experienced until then.
His first appointment was as Assistant in St. Michaels in Miami. From there he was assigned in 1969 to St. Anthony’s in Fort Lauderdale where he learned everything he knows now from the then parish priest Mgr John O Looney! In 1974 he moved to Little Flower in Coral Gables, Miami and after a very short stint in 1976 in St. Patrick;s Miami Beach he was made Pastor in St. Mary’s in Key West in January 1977. Then in July 1982 he was appointed founding pastor of All Saints Parish in Sunrise, Broward County. He arrived with nothing in his pocket and the only resource the diocese gave him was an empty plot of land. I remember vividly to this day the first church, a large rented room with a sacristy that was the size of a broom cupboard. Very soon he had a really dedicated group of parishioners around him and in summary when he left the parish in January 2004, twenty-two years later, All Saints had a church, a preschool, a grade school, a parish hall and several classrooms for religious education. Not to mention parishioners in their thousands and a very substantial sum of money in the parish coffers. In January 2004 he moved to St. Gabriel’s in Pompano Beach, his present parish. From January to April Fr Tony has over four thousand Mass goers every week.
Apart from parish work he has been involved over the years in many diocesan initiatives, not least Catholic Charities, the diocesan finance committee and for many years he served on the personnel board. Probably the highlight of all of his diocesan commitment was Pope John Paul’s visit to Miami. Asked by Archbishop McCarthy to organize the venues for the visit, he gathered a team around him, including Hubert’s brother Fr Gabe O Reilly and did a super job, commended not only by the Vatican authorities but the Secret Service as well.
His real success, his real contribution has been with people. Thirty five years ago when I was starting out after ordination he told me that 90% of the job is simply being nice to people and being there for people. And he has made this the absolute cornerstone of his ministry. The parishioners he has had over the years are incredibly loyal to him. When he was in All Saints they came to see him from St. Anthonys, from his other parishes, even from Key West, nine hours drive away. He reaches people by communicating the Gospel to them in a delivery that’s easy to understand but powerful in its impact.
There was a lot of commentary about the closure of All Hallows last year. Not much though about the incredible contribution made by and continues to be made by its priest graduates – by Fr Tony, and indeed other Mullingar priests Frs Michael Kelly, Kevin Ryan, Fergus and Justin Monahan and so many others in the past, Frs Tom McDermott, John Kellaghan and Oliver Mahedy to name but a few.
(Fr Paul Connell)
Fr Tony Mulderry will celebrate Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King on Sunday 16 July at 11.00am.