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New bishop-elect: ‘It’s my new home; it’s where I belong’

By Deacon Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

When a diocesan official asked him when he anticipated coming to the Diocese of Duluth, Bishop-elect Michel J. Mulloy said in a press conference that his first impulse was simple: “tomorrow.”

Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy
Bishop-elect Michel Mulloy addresses the media outside of the diocesan Pastoral Center June 19 after his appointment as the next bishop of Duluth was announced. He currently serves as diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota. His ordination and installation in Duluth are being planned for Oct. 1. (Photo by Mary Rasch / For The Northern Cross)

While other duties will prevent that immediate move, Bishop-elect Mulloy, currently serving as diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Rapid City, said that once he accepted the call to become the Diocese of Duluth’s next bishop, his heart already began moving here. After only a few hours, he said, he already felt welcome.

“I look forward to meeting everybody,” he said. “I look forward to getting to know the people of this diocese and the priests of this diocese, the deacons of this diocese, because it’s my new home; it’s where I belong. It’s where God has planted me for this part of my life.”

He said moving is something he’s used to, and the hard winters don’t daunt him.

“I learned a long time ago that you learn to love where you are and you learn to be happy where God places you,” he said. “So I’m not worried about that piece at all.”

A South Dakota native

Pope Francis’ appointment of Bishop-elect Mulloy for the Duluth Diocese was announced June 19 in Washington, D.C., by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican nuncio to the United States. His episcopal ordination and installation have been set for Oct. 1.

Bishop-elect Mulloy, 67, is a native of Mobridge, South Dakota. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, June 8, 1979, and incardinated into the Diocese of Rapid City in 1986 after being on loan to the diocese for a few years for parish ministry.

He was born May 20, 1953, to Silvin and Ethel Mulloy, joining one brother, Colin Dean, and two sisters, Madonna and Roxan. His older brother Llewellen died at birth. He grew up attending St. Joseph Catholic Church and the public school in Mobridge. His dad was a mechanic and car dealer, and his mother cared for the home and assisted her husband with bookkeeping.

In 1967, his mother died of an aneurysm. His father moved with Michel’s brother to Keystone, South Dakota, in the Black Hills in 1968, where he met and married Amelia (Babe) Cordes.

That same year, Michel entered the minor seminary at O’Gorman High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as a sophomore. Michel attended what is now St. Mary’s University of Minnesota and Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona. He graduated in 1975 with a bachelor of arts in classical humanities.

From 1975 to 1979, Michel attended St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul for theology, the archdiocese’s graduate-level seminary, which has graduated 33 other priests later ordained bishops, among them Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, a candidate for sainthood.

After Bishop-elect Mulloy was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Sioux Falls in 1979, he served in parishes in both the Sioux Falls and Rapid City dioceses before being formally incardinated in the Rapid City Diocese. He has served as the Rapid City diocese’s vocations director and director of its Office of Worship. He has also served on its priests’ council, college of consultors, diocesan finance and pastoral councils, and the Sioux Spiritual Center Board of Directors.

In 2017, Bishop-elect Mulloy became the full-time vicar general of the diocese and returned to Rapid City. In 2019, he was elected diocesan administrator when Bishop Robert D. Gruss was named bishop of Saginaw, Michigan.

Bishop-elect Mulloy is close to his immediate family and his extended family with cousins living throughout the country. His brother Colin died in 2003. His father and stepmother also are also deceased. Colin’s two daughters and two granddaughters live in San Diego.

His sister Roxan lives in Rugby, North Dakota. She has two daughters and four grandchildren. His sister Madonna and her husband, Allen, live in Milliken, Colorado. They have two sons and a daughter and 14 grandchildren.

Connections to the Duluth Diocese

Bishop-elect Mulloy will succeed the late Bishop Paul Sirba, who died unexpectedly Dec. 1, 2019, and he said some of his first thoughts after he learned of the new assignment were of the late bishop, whose funeral he had attended.

“When I found out I was going to become the bishop, I went into the chapel in the chancery where I work, and one of the first people that came to my mind was Bishop Sirba,” he said. “And so I said, ‘I need you to help me.’ And I believe he heard that and he will. So I’m also honored to be following in his footsteps, because he truly was a wonderful, holy man.”

There are other connections, too. Father James Bissonette, diocesan administrator for the Diocese of Duluth, who introduced the new bishop-elect at the press conference, said the two of them had recently come to know each other better.

“Because of Bishop Sirba’s untimely death, the two of us went as diocesan administrators with the bishops of the province to Rome together,” Father Bissonette said. “So you might notice I use a cane, and I have cerebral palsy, and I yanked on his arm all the way through Rome last January. So luckily, fortuitously, gracefully, we know each other.”

“We’re very glad to have our bishop-elect, and one of these days we can drop the ‘elect’ and he’ll just be our bishop,” he added.

Bishop-elect Mulloy’s duties as diocesan administrator in the Diocese of Rapid City also bring a connection to Duluth, as that diocese is preparing for the ordination and installation of a Duluth priest, Bishop-elect Peter Muhich, on July 9.

Asked about what in effect works out to be an unusual “swap” between the two dioceses, Bishop-elect Mulloy said, “I think God has an enormous, wonderful sense of humor, that’s what I think.”

“You’re losing a good priest; I hope you’re getting a good one,” he added. “I think we’re getting a good bishop; I hope you’re getting one.”

He described the opportunity for ministry among Native Americans in the Diocese of Duluth another special connection between the two dioceses. The Rapid City Diocese, he said, has one of the largest populations of Native American Catholics in the United States, and there is a cause for canonization for one of them, Nicholas Black Elk, a catechist who led many people to the Catholic faith.

“There’s something very holy about Native American people that I’ve experienced or been around,” he said, adding that he was anxious to get to know the Native Americans in our area.

Reactions

Father Bissonette, in delivering the news to the clergy of the diocese, said Bishop-elect Mulloy brings a wealth of both pastoral and administrative experience, having served in parishes from 1979 to 2017 and having served in many capacities for the Diocese of Rapid City since the late 1980s.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, also welcomed the news.

“I have come to know him in his great work as diocesan administrator of the Diocese of Rapid City and am confident that he will be a faithful servant and shepherd to the people of northeastern Minnesota, building on the ministry of Bishop Paul Sirba,” Archbishop Hebda said.

“I very much look forward to collaborating with him as he joins the bishops of our state,” he added.

In the Diocese of Rapid City, Chancellor Margaret Simonson said in a message to the faithful that Bishop-elect Mulloy had left a legacy there.

“The Lord has blessed this diocese abundantly through Father Mulloy’s priestly ministry,” she wrote. “Throughout his 40 years of priesthood he has been an integral part of our presbyterate and left a faith-filled impression on the parishioners that he served. He will be greatly missed; however, the people of the Diocese of Duluth will gain a faithful and joyful shepherd. Today is a day of great joy for all of us but especially for the people of the Diocese of Duluth.”

Catholic News Service and Maria Weiring of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, contributed to this report.