After 53 years of service in priesthood, 23 spent in Graham, Monsignor Raymund Mullan is retiring.

The 77-year-old priest was born May 11, 1937, in Pretoria, South Africa. One of four brothers, Mullan was inspired to become a priest between the ages of 8 and 9, especially after his father, Bertram, mentioned how excited he would be if one of his sons were to become one. 

For the first three years of his schooling he attended Loreto Convent, and thereafter Christian Brothers’ College in Pretoria. After graduation in 1954, Mullan attended St. John Vianney Seminary where he met his friend, George Foley, now the pastor at St. Jude Parish in Mansfield.

“George and I loved our seminary days, we really did,” Mullan said. “We often reminisce about them, even to this day.”

On June 29, 1962, Mullan was ordained into the priesthood on the feast day of saints Peter and Paul at the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Pretoria and was made Foley’s assistant priest in Maria Regina and St. Vincent de Paul. In 1964, he was assigned to the Cathedral Church.

“During these seven years I gained a lot of experience in a multicultural country,” Mullan said. 

In 1967, Mullan was appointed priest-in-charge by his bishop at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Pretoria West. This was followed by his first pastor assignment in the Parish of St. John the Baptist in Pretoria North. In 1969 he was appointed pastor of St. John Fisher in Lynnwood, next to the parish he attended as a child.

For more than 14 years, from 1965 to 1979, Mullan served as chaplain to the maximum security prison in Pretoria where he ministered to prisoners on death row. Prior to walking many prisoners to their deaths on execution day, Mullan would speak with them the same morning. 

“They were executed by hanging,” he said, recalling a time he walked five men to their execution. “One of them, who was shorter than I, began singing, ‘Kum ba yah.’ He danced to his death. That always stayed with me.”

It was also during this time that he served as chaplain to his alma mater, Christian Brothers’ College, and served as a part time member of the school faculty teaching scripture and religious education. He also took students on retreats to religious landmarks in Pretoria and throughout South Africa.

To this day Mullan wonders how he found the time to do so much at once in ministry and pastoral activities in addition to running a parish full-time, he said. In 1979 he became chief liaison Catholic chaplain to the South African Defense Force and pastor to the military parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace in Voortrekkerhoogte with the rank of chaplain and colonel.

“That was a position I never dreamed of (getting), no more than flying to the moon,” he said, adding that he had to be trained in military activities, holding a gun included. 

“The subculture of the military was different. I was having to deal with senior military officers,” he said.

He served as colonel/chaplain for 10 years.

“I ministered to tens of thousands of new people all over the country,” he said. “I traveled extensively through those years.”

After a decade as chaplain, Mullan saw more changes in store for the future. Two of his brothers passed away, and his third brother, Bert, moved to Texas where he currently works as an anesthesiologist in Stephenville. 

A reception in Mullan’s honor will be at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Read more in Wednesday's Graham Leader.