Father Leonard M. Mullaney, longtime Mattapoisett pastor, dies

By Kenneth J. Souza, Anchor Staff

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FALL RIVER, Mass. — Last week the diocese collectively mourned the passing of Father Leonard M. Mullaney, 78, who died from cardiac arrest on December 10 at the Catholic Memorial Home.

A native of Fall River, Father Mullaney was the son of the late Joseph E. Mullaney and the late retired Judge Beatrice Hancock Mullaney.

Although retired from full-time pastoral duties for the past five years, Father Mullaney remained active in diocesan ministry and recently enjoyed traveling and spending time with his extensive family that included many nieces and nephews.

“He was a person who took his vocation seriously,” said Msgr. Barry W. Wall, who was ordained with Father Mullaney. “He was a person who had strong convictions in every phase of life … and he made them well-known, and the same was true with regard to his priestly ministry. He preached the Word of God in word and in deed and there was no equivocation.”

Born Oct. 7, 1936, Father Mullaney was an alumnus of Morton Junior High School in Fall River. He graduated from the former Msgr. Coyle High School in Taunton, where he was taught by the Holy Cross Brothers who “made a great impression on him to pursue a priestly vocation,” he said in an interview with The Anchor.

“We went to Coyle High School together,” said classmate Father John F. Andrews. “We later became roommates in the seminary. I always remembered him borrowing my typewriter … he didn’t have one and was always borrowing mine. He had a great sense of humor and was always playing jokes on me.”

Father Mullaney entered Cardinal O’Connell Minor Seminary in 1954 and continued his studies at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton.

He was ordained on Feb. 2, 1962 by Bishop James L. Connolly at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fall River.

“On the 50th anniversary of our ordination to the priesthood, we celebrated Mass together at the Catholic Memorial Home with Bishop George W. Coleman,” Father Andrews recalled. “That was the last time I saw him.”

Father Mullaney’s first assignment was at St. Patrick’s Parish in Wareham. While there, he also served as parochial administrator at St. Rita’s in Marion for several months. It was there he first developed an affinity for riding motorcycles.

He would enjoy long rides through rural areas of the diocese on one of two bikes — a big Suzuki or a smaller Honda.

“I began riding a motorcycle during my first assignment as a priest at St. Patrick’s in Wareham,” he recalled in a 2009 Anchor interview. “The young men would ride throughout the cranberry bogs and so I began to join them. I’m still riding the bikes … just came in from riding one.”

“I enjoyed hearing about his motorcycle hobby,” said Msgr. Ronald A. Tosti, who was also ordained with Father Mullaney in 1962. “He was very much alive and very active. He obviously enjoyed the priesthood. All my memories of him are very positive.”

Besides his motorcycle hobby, he took a liking to quahogging, which he enjoyed with family members. 

From 1972 to 1974 he was parochial vicar at Our Lady of Fatima Parish in New Bedford, then parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Parish in Taunton from 1974 to 1978, when he was named pastor at St. Bernard’s Parish in Assonet.

He was appointed pastor at St. Anthony’s Parish in East Falmouth in June 1986 and became pastor of St. Anthony’s in Mattapoisett in June 1999. 

“(Father Mullaney) was very hard-working for the Spiritual welfare of our parishes,” noted Father Philip A. Davignon. “He worked hard to keep parish expenses at a reasonable minimum … and he was very welcoming to other priests at his rectories.”

Before retiring in 2009, Father Mullaney served as pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Mattapoisett for nine years, capping off 47 years of priestly ministry for the diocese.

Looking back at his nearly half-century as a priest, Father Mullaney said those years “were very happy ones. I am a happy priest. I have had good assignments in several fine parishes — even sometimes while definitive changes were occurring in the Church — during my years of ministry.”

Father Mullaney also served as an advocate and a pro-synodal judge in the diocesan Tribunal and was director of Cathedral Camp in East Freetown from 1972 to 1983. 

“I know I made a good choice in becoming a priest,” he told The Anchor. “I’ve put my life to good use as a priest.”

Father Mullaney is survived by his brother, Attorney Joseph E. Mullaney Jr., of Orchid, Fla.; a sister, Arline M. Angell and her husband William of Naples, Fla.; and many nieces and nephews. He was also the brother of the late Vincent S. Mullaney and Margaret Mullaney Panos.

Father Mullaney’s funeral Mass was held on December 18 at Holy Name Church in Fall River. He was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Fall River.

“He was direct and open in all that he did and hard-working and talented both academically and athletically,” added classmate Msgr. Wall, who delivered the homily during Father Mullaney’s funeral Mass. “He used all his gifts in his ministry in caring for people and drawing them closer to the Lord.”

Memorial contributions in Father Mullaney’s honor may be made to the Catholic Memorial Home, 2446 Highland Avenue, Fall River, Mass. 02720.

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