A YOUNG Brendan Muldoon left Currenrue five decades ago, but the Florida Monsignor’s links with the area have never dwindled. Though from the parish of New Quay in County Clare, Brendan and his family always felt more connected with nearby Kinvara and Galway, attending school there and playing for Galway inter-county teams at various grades.
“We are from the parish of New Quay, about three miles west of Kinvara, right on the Clare and Galway border really. Most of the land is on the Galway side but the house is on the Clare side,” he states.
Brendan was ordained on June 21, 1964 at St Patrick’s College in Maynooth. From there he returned to Galway, though to the other side of the bay.
The young priest was appointed to Rossaveal where he spent four years in the Gaeltacht parish and was heavily involved in Coláiste Chonnacht in Spiddal before a spending a year ministering in Galway City.
“Rossaveal was a lovely spot. Now everyone goes to the Aran Islands from there but when I went there you couldn’t do that unless you were very skilled on a boat. I was there for four years and the harbour was one of the major projects at the time; getting the harbour developed. It is a great success now but it was an exciting time. I really enjoyed my time there and I never spoke English while I was there. I was also very involved in Coláiste Chonnacht too. After that I spent a year in St Patrick’s parish in Galway City,” he recalls.
In 1969, Fr Muldoon, as he was known then, was welcomed to Florida – a place he has since made his home. He served in two parishes as an associate pastor before spending six years as a pastor in Tampa, Florida.
In 1981, he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of St Petersburg and later Vicar General. While still working in the Diocese in 1983 Monsignor Muldoon went to St Jerome Parish in Largo, Florida as Pastor. It is there, next week, that he will celebrate 50 years in the priesthood.
“I came here for a different experience of church and I got it and I loved it. I could easily have come back home over the years but I chose to remain here where there was a shortage of priests instead of returning to Ireland where there was so many. Now when I go back they want me to stay because they are so few priests. When I was ordained that wasn’t the way it was,” Monsignor Muldoon remembers.
Florida has a large population of retired people from the Northern United States and Canada attracted by the climate. Many move there just for the winter, resulting in fluctuating flock numbers for Monsignor Muldoon but it also presents other challenges.
“Many people come here for the winter and they are most welcome but a lot of people leave family to do that and that can be a little isolating. They leave their support systems behind them and I think they feel it most when a family member gets sick. That is something we try to be mindful of here,” he says.
In December of 1994, he was elected as administrator of the diocese for a year when there was no bishop.
In 2007, he completed 26 years of working on the diocesan level and was then able to work full time at St Jerome. In addition to parish ministry, Chancellor, Vicar General and administrator of the diocese, other assignments have been serving the diocese as Moderator of the Curia, Vicar Forane, Episcopal Vicar, Consultor, Secretary of the Incardination Commission, Member of Personnel and Vocation Boards, Finance Office of the Diocese, Director of Family Life, Board Member of Catholic Charities, co-ordinator of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, teacher of religion in a Diocesan High School and chaplain to various religious communities and organisations.
Now as well as being pastor of St Jerome Parish, he is Vice President of the Irish Educational Development Foundation. Despite his many roles, Monsignor Muldoon has made it his business to go home nearly every year.
“I like to stay in contact with the family. I tell the people around me here that I have to go back home every year to preserve my Irish accent but I go back because I still have family there and family is very important to me. I like to go back and see the sun going down on Galway Bay and I love going to Kinvara.
“I feel connected with Clare too, of course. It was great to see them winning the All Ireland this year. It is tough when Galway and Clare match up against each other because we were reared with a Galway leaning. I love the Burren though. It shaped me us too, it is in our blood,” he reveals.
In summer, Monsignor Muldoon can be seen regularly walking the limestone pavement and it is something he hopes to do more of starting after his retirement next year.
“Under Canon Law, every office holder must tender their resignation at 75, all except the pope, so even thought I have 50 years done, I am only 74 so I have a year and a half to go before retirement. When I retire, I am going to hang out on the beach for most of the year and spend a few months in Ireland. I will go to Ireland for three or four months but the rest of the year, I’ll spend here at the beach,” he hopes.
To commemorate Monsignor Muldoon’s 50 years, Aughnish-born plein air artist and Florida-resident Helen Glynn Tilston has painted The Road to Aughnish and dedicated a poem, When you call Kinvara Home, to the Monsignor.
When you call Kinvara Home
When you call Kinvara home
There are fields and crags to roam
Each meander is new
and everywhere spectacular views
Over Cós to Aughnish sound
Where birds and wildlife still abound
You may watch a farmer till
as you listen to the songbird’s shrill
Seals frolic on rocks as they play and bark
In the meadow you may spot a lark
Let’s go to Cluainin Beach tomorrow
and dig and feast on *sceanna mara (s)
Bluebells and fuscia grow all summer long
and if you listen you will hear the cuckoo’s song
Autumn and the sky is aglow
we shall feast on blackberries and sloes
Follow me to Nogra and Dooras
As we approach Geeha
The donkey brays Hee Ha
The weather brings rain but not a monsoon
and here lives a special family named Muldoon.
A tribute to Monsignor Brendan Muldoon, written by Helen (Glynn) Tilston
*sceanna mara – razor fish