Fr. Edward John Francis Mullins, IVE
(30/10/1948 – †06/07/2020)
“The call to suffer requires a strong and patient faith”
Saint John Paul II said these words to the sick in his visit to Knock, Ireland in 1979. In his Providence, God sent us an Irishman to live among us and teach us this very lesson with his life.
Father Eddie, as we would call him, was born in the city of Cork, Ireland on October 30, 1948. He was the eldest of nine siblings. His parents Thomas and Joan Murphy baptized him two day later on the Solemnity of All Saints in the Church of Saint Patrick.
He went to elementary school with the Presentation sisters in his hometown. He finished high school with the Christian Brothers. Immediately after finishing high school, he began to work. At the same time, he was studying law. In his second year, he abandoned his studies and continued to work, dedicating his life to various jobs.
When he was 52 years old, God knocked on the door of his heart so that he would change his life style. The occasion was a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. During this pilgrimage, he felt in the depths of his heart that he must do something for the Lord and he started a long period of vocational discernment, which due to his age was not easy. After five years of discernment, he made the decision to enter the seminary. He was not accepted by his diocese of Cork and Ross, so he entered the seminary of Maynooth for the Diocese of Cloyne.
However, his heart was not peaceful; he felt that he had to give God something else, so as he studied for the priesthood he continued his vocational discernment. In the year of 2009, he had contact with our Institute because of a visit that he made with other seminarians from Maynooth to our community in Ireland. He started to understand that God wanted him to give Him his whole life through the religious profession. After two or three weeks of this first encounter with our Institute, Eddie talked with Fr. Gabriel Barros, missionary of the Institute in Ireland, formally asking him to enter so as to follow the call of God to consecrate his life. He did his novitiate in Segni, Italy, and he did his first year of seminary there. In Segni he professed his first vows on December 7th, 2011.
For Eddie Italian was not easy. However, he put forth great effort to learn Italian at 62 years of age, without ever complaining or considering the struggle this implied for him. His superiors believed that it would be better for Eddie to continue his studies in his native language, for which reason he was sent in October of 2012 to the House of Formation Fulton Sheen in the United States of America.
Neither in Italy nor in the United States was his age an excuse to escape from community life, from the moments of recreation, from the daily discipline of the seminary, from the effort in study. Instead, it was completely contrary. He always tried not to be treated differently from the rest of the seminarians; rather he tried to be one more among them, managing to become friends with everyone.
Fr. Gabriel Barros tells us about him: “I had the grace to see Eddie as a priest and to concelebrate with him last year, when I visited our Seminary in Chillum to teach.
I can say that when he entered, Eddie was already a man of life of prayer and very devoted to the Virgin Mary. I believe he also prayed daily the chaplet of Divine Mercy… I also remember that he was very joyful and laughed easily. When I was able to see him last year, already in the midst of frequent dialysis and other health problems that kept him in bed almost all day, it was enough to remember some jokes and talk about Munster, his Rugby team, to make us laugh a lot.”
Fr. Barattero, Provincial of the Institute in USA, relates, “In his years of formation and in his years as a priest, he dedicated himself in a particular way to the apostolate with the sick. In the area of the parish of the seminary in the United States, we have three nursing homes, which he would regularly visit to take spiritual relief to the residents. Yet, his apostolate with them became more profound day by day as his health deteriorated, since he could comfort them not only with his words but also with the exemplary way in which he carried out his own illness.
“Father Eddie suffered from kidney failure, in addition to other diseases such as herpes –which caused him intense pain in the nerves in one of his sides–, nose bleeding, tremors and respiratory and lung problems which were the ones that worsened the last month of his life and caused the heart attack that took his earthly life.”
“Despite his health problems, he never ceased exercising his priestly ministry, since his health problems began immediately after his diaconate ordination, thus his priestly ministry was marked by illness. This was no excuse to stop celebrating the Holy Mass or to stop comforting those whom God’s Providence placed in his way. Nevertheless, towards the end of his life, prayer and the voluntary offering of his sufferings for the salvation of souls became his principal apostolate. Little by little, he became aware that this was the best thing he could do for souls, so he asked the seminarian who assisted him to have a notebook on hand where he had to write down all the intentions for which he was asked to pray and he offered daily the Holy Mass for all those intentions.
“It is worth mentioning something that happened a little over a year ago, with occasion of the death of Father Daniel Vitz, Fr. Eddie’s companion in sickness. As Father Daniel had worsened, we had to move him to another house – before he lived with Father Eddie – which we had adapted to his needs. On Holy Thursday of 2019 despite the difficulties of walking and leaving his house, Father Eddie decided to visit the recently transferred Father Daniel and he was able to concelebrate the Holy Mass with him, the last Mass that Father Daniel celebrated on this earth. The next day, Good Friday, Father Eddie decided to visit once again, regardless of his weakness, the deceased Father Daniel, and to venerate, with great emotion, the mortal rests of his companion in sickness. A small sign that shows the spirit that Father Eddie had.”
“However, looking a little farther back, perhaps the greatest lesson that Father Eddie has left for our small Religious Family is to never give up or to never abandon the plans of God. The path to the priesthood for Eddie was never easy, nevertheless, he knew that it was the Will of God and because of this, he never gave up. Changing his life habits and starting to live religious life was not easy for Eddie, yet, he never abandoned it because God wanted him to be a religious.
“Without a doubt, the Most Holy Virgin of Knock, of whom he was a most devoted son, and the Divine Mercy, to whom he implored with special affection, have lead him by the hand to participate in the loving banquet of the Three Divine Persons.”
To finish we copy here the testimony of Fr. Gabriel Barros: “His death found me during the annual Spiritual Exercises at the Home Saint Pio de Pietrelcina (San Rafael, Argentina). I did not know of his death until before Mass on Monday, July 6, but the night before I had a beautiful dream with people of what was our parish in Kilmyshall, Ireland. I saw those whom I had left behind as children, already ten years older. This filled me with joy and good dispositions about this very troubled mission. It was for this reason that my surprise and thanksgiving was doubled at that Mass and on that Monday of his funeral.”
His funeral was on July 15th at the Major Seminary in Washington, sending off with a Mass, together with the members of our Religious Family, his mortal remains which will be transferred to Ireland to be buried in his country of origin.