FROM BROTHERHOOD TO PRIESTHOOD:
The Memoirs of Monsignor William A. Mullins
(Modotti Press, 2013, 268pp, $29.95, ISBN: 978-1-92216-849-8. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This is a fascinating set of recollections by one of Australia's more remarkable priests. It is especially valuable as a first-hand account of Catholic Church history in this country over many decades and in addition will be of great interest to those many bishops, priests, religious and lay people whose paths have crossed Monsignor Mullins' at different stages of his long and distinguished career.
Even now, as he approaches 90, Monsignor Mullins remains an active contributor to the life of the Church in Sydney.
Over a period of more than 70 years, he has carried out an educational and pastoral ministry in three states – New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – as well as on three continents: Australia, North America and Europe.
Monsignor Mullins' extended religious and priestly life can be divided into two major stages: as a teaching De La Salle brother and later as a diocesan priest.
During his years of teaching in DLS primary and secondary schools and tertiary institutes he acquired an impressive succession of academic qualifications: Bachelor of Arts at the University of Melbourne, Master of Education at the University of Sydney, and Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.
As a De La Salle religious brother, his teaching career in primary schools was pursued in Sydney, Cootamundra and Melbourne before he moved on to secondary teaching in Melbourne at De La Salle College, Malvern. He later taught at tertiary level at the DLS Scholasticate at Castle Hill, Sydney, in its teacher-training program. Later still, he lectured in the Theology and Religious Sciences department at St Francis Xavier Seminary in Adelaide.
Several of his former De La Salle students went on to the priesthood, among them current parish priests in the Melbourne Archdiocese who will no doubt find these memoirs of particular interest.
In 1970, on the basis of his impressive educational track record and academic qualifications, the then Brother William Mullins was assigned to the newly established Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education where he would work for two terms: firstly in the Catholic Schools Section (1970-74), and then in the University Section (1979-1990).
In between these assignments, he was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood by the Adelaide Archdiocese and, given his qualifications and experience, he was required only to complete a one year program at the St Paul's National Seminary in Sydney prior to his ordination in 1975. By then he was already over 50.
Monsignor Mullins' recollections of meetings while at the Vatican include leading Church figures, among them two popes, and numerous cardinals, bishops and future bishops.
Since his return from Rome he has served as Assistant Chancellor and as Process Instructor of the Archdiocese of Sydney and has held other administrative and pastoral positions over a 20 year period.
These days, Monsignor Mullins continues his contributions to Sydney's spiritual life, regularly celebrating lunchtime Masses in the chapel for the staff of the archdiocesan offices and other city workers. He also celebrates Masses and hears confessions at St Mary's Cathedral when required.
The Catholic Church is greatly indebted to Monsignor Mullins for his wide-ranging contributions to her spiritual life as well as for taking the time to publish his personal account of a significant slice of her history in Australia.