Father Jack named grand marshal
Saturdays for sermons, not shenanigans
By Scott Bellile
Rev. Jack Mullarkey – a New London native in his mid-80s of Irish descent – has never experienced the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
The retired priest attributed his 38-year absence to his vocation, saying he was busy every Saturday as the celebrant of Catholic mass.
In accepting the Shamrock Club of New Dublin’s honor of parade grand marshal, “I was just surprised I said yes, so now I’ve got to follow it through,” he said.
The public can watch him give it that go, first with his introduction at Irish Entertainment Night at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 16, at New London High School.
The Grand Parade will follow at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 18, in downtown New London.
“It will be fun,” he said. “I’ll give it a go.”
Mullarkey grew up in the New London area but moved away as a teen in the early 1950s.
Area residents may best know him as Father Jack of St. Mary’s Parish in Bear Creek and St. Rose Parish in Clintonville from 2007-2017.
“He was very well liked,” said Bill Klegin, sexton for St. Mary’s Parish Cemetery. “He was good with the schoolchildren and is still very much missed. He was very good at giving a homily, and at a funeral he could bring a smile and a grin to a grieving family’s face.”
St. Mary’s parishioner Cora Handschke nominated Mullarkey for grand marshal because she was touched by the sermon he gave at her husband Larry’s funeral in 2013.
“Everything was so sincere,” Handschke said, “and he was that way with anybody. Whenever he did a funeral, he just made the people feel good.”
Mullarkey forged these connections during what was a temporary pastoral assignment.
He had retired from Holy Cross Parish in Kaukauna at age 70 when the Diocese of Green Bay called him to Bear Creek and Clintonville.
The churches’ priest was leaving for the military. They had lay ministers but needed someone to perform sacraments.
“I enjoyed it a lot,” Mullarkey said. “Even as a little boy I would go to St. Mary’s because I would visit my aunt and uncles at the farm, and grandma when she was still alive, so we would go to mass at St. Mary’s. It was kind of neat to be back and be the celebrant of the mass.” Less enjoyable were the commutes from home in Menasha.
“The driving had finally gotten to me because every time I went to Bear Creek and Clintonville, it was a hundred miles,” Mullarkey said.
Fueled by faith, not oil
Mullarkey’s disdain for drive time is ironic given his upbringing.
His father, John, opened Mullarkey Auto Service in downtown New London in the 1930s.
John’s son Jim took over in 1974 and operated Mullarkey Pontiac until his retirement in 1998.
Brothers Jim, Jerome and Joseph all had a knack for automobiles, Mullarkey said.
“I’m a terrible mechanic although … I [knew] more than an awful lot of people,” he said.
Mullarkey found his calling elsewhere: divinity.
Three priests he respected– two older cousins and Rev. Jim Jacobs at Most Precious Blood Catholic Church – influenced him to pursue the ministry.
After two years at Washington High School, he left in 1953 for Salvatorian Seminary in St. Nazianz. There he finished senior high and completed a four-year theology and spirituality program.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s University in Minnesota in 1960.
He was ordained in 1964 and served parishes in Green Bay, Appleton, Marinette and Kaukauna until retirement.
Proud to be Irish
Mullarkey appreciates his Irish heritage.
“I know the story of St. Patrick better than most,” he said. “I’ve been to Ireland at least four, five times.”
He has golfed along the coast and devoured the villages’ seafood. He also enjoys corned beef and cabbage, an invention of first-generation Irish immigrants in New York City.
On his living room wall hangs an Irish blessing gifted to him at retirement. It greets visitors with wishes of bright sunshine and God’s love.
“St. Patrick’s Day for me has always been kind of fun, and it’s always good to know your culture,” Mullarkey said.
“If you understand your culture, and you understand other people’s culture, you’re richer for it.”