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 humble 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 was not 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, Galway, before 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.
Fr Noel Mullin was appointed a Canon to the Diocesan Chapter in 1997 and was appointed Vicar Forane 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 he 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 were 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 as well as more than 50 other priests
Fr Noel’s nephew Micheál Mullins welcomed everybody and told numerous family stories of his life. He spoke of Fr Noel’s 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 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.