Rev. Aidan Mullan was an ‘innovator and a fixer’, mourners told

Rev. Aidan Mullan was an “innovator” and a “fixer” who was “first port of call for sound advice and guidance”, mourners at his funeral heard today.

The late Fr Aidan Mullan.
The late Fr Aidan Mullan.

Fr Mullan, who died on Thursday last, was buried in St Mary’s Cemetery, Drumragh, following Requiem Mass at Sacred Heart Church in Omagh.

A native of Omagh, following ordination to the priesthood in 1976, Fr Mullan was appointed to the staff of St Columb’s College in Derry where he taught mathematics and later became vice-principal.

As a diocesan priest, he served at Glendermott, Dungiven and the Parish of the Three Patrons and was appointed administrator (parish priest) at St Columba’s Church, Long Tower, in 2016.

Among the mourners at today’s Requiem Mass were members of his family and fellow clergy including Dr Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland - a former student and teaching collegue of Rev. Mullan at St Columb’s College - and Dr Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry.

In his homily, Rev. Micheal McGavigan said Father Mullan enjoyed a “lifetime of fruitful, life-affirming and life-giving service”.

He added: “He was a stalwart of Catholic education, serving on the Board of CCMS for many years. He was a much-respected teacher who inspired generations of students to explore the wider world and consider how they would contribute to it and shape its values and character. Aidan was an innovator who thought outside the box and sought creative ways to engage the mind.”

Rev. Mullan was, he said, “a fixer, semper ante manum, (always ahead of the posse) gifted with mental agility, political nous, common sense and an uncompromising work ethic.

“He was always thinking, always planning, always plotting the advantage for whatever endeavour was entrusted to his care.

“He had a deep understanding of and compassion for the human condition with all its possibilities and limitations. Those he cared for pastorally in parish, school and various chaplaincies felt listened-to, valued, and supported. “Generations of children in the parish schools where he ministered will remember fondly his frequent visits and concern that they should prepare well for significant milestones on their faith journey by inviting them into the sacramental life of the church.”

Rev. McGavigan said Fr Aidan had a particular concern for those who were sick and dying.

“Even when he himself no longer benefitted from good health and was facing the prospect of death, he never failed to answer the call to hospital or the sick bed. He knew well the comfort and consolation Christ’s presence brings and he benefitted from that in his final days. I know he would wish me to thank sincerely all those doctors, nurses, carers, and chaplains who cared for him during his final illness.”

Fr Aidan’s counsel, said Rev. McGavigan, was sought by priests and people alike.

“If you had a problem or difficulty, he was often your first port of call for some sound advice and guidance,” he said. “He was a trusted confident of successive bishops and senior priests in this diocese. I know you, Archbishop Martin, valued Aidan’s wise counsel from your school days in the College and throughout your priestly life. When you were in the ascendant and it became known that you were to become Primate of All Ireland, Aidan would remark with great pride, ‘I taught the boy!’

“For me, and I know as I look out on this congregation that I am by no means unique, Aidan was a close friend and trusted mentor. Little did I think, when I was a schoolboy in the College and heard the distant click of his steel-capped shoes on the terrazzo floor warning us to abandon whatever mischief we were up to, that our paths would cross again when I was entrusted to his care as a fledgling priest.

“Aidan gifted me, and indeed so many of us, with his kind heart, wise counsel and good humour.”