Fr. H. Charles Mulholland
The Reverend Hugh Charles X. Mulholland
Born April 23, 1921
Ordained May 21, 1956
Died July 21, 2001
Father Charlie, as he was known to all as, was the oldest of seven brothers and sisters. He was born to immigrants from the Belfast area of Ireland.
He was born on April 26 1921 in the Bronx near Yankee Stadium, but after a short while the family moved to Ozone Park, Queens County, New York which borders Brooklyn and New York City. He grew up like the Bible says "subject to his family." He went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Grammar School, then onto Bishop Loughlin High School followed by work in Todd's Shipyard which in the prewar years was already getting into a War mood.
While working in the shipyard he lunched with other workers and a guy showed him an application for Kings Point, a new Academy for seafarers. So he applied and was accepted. He applied for a Deck commission without the advice of his dad. When he was later visited by his dad and his brother John, they told him that there was more of a future as a land based engineer so he switched and went on to graduate during a World War II shortened term as an engine room engineer. On his first trip, his mom was actually praying for both Charlie and her husband's safety, when he phoned from Baltimore. He had been on a tug and had gone safely through War Waters where he was paid extra.
Father Charlie continued sailing through the war and he liked going on tankers. When asked why, since they would be an obvious target, he said that was true but that they were also turned around quickly and he could get back to the States and take the next licensing test. As a result, he rapidly became qualified in both steam and diesel as a Chief Engineer, a qualification shared by very few. When the war ended he continued to sail as a chief engineer and became like a duplicate seafaring dad for his brother. He always came back with loads of souvenirs and his brother was the only kid on the block with helmets from all the nations involved. He was on one ship where he was befriended by the radio operator Ed Lewis from North Carolina, who like Charlie was trying to figure out life. Charlie said that he wrote to the Bishop of North Carolina on Ed's advice (Ed went into the Trappists) who said he would get him an appointment to a seminary. When he came home from one of his trips he had a letter from Bishop Waters telling him to report to the seminary in Little Rock, Arkansas on a date that had already passed. He went anyway and started his seminary life. He later went on to Catholic University where he got his degree.
Father Charlie was ordained on May 26 1956, a date where the whole family went to accompany his very proud mother. He went on in North Carolina "where he grew in wisdom" also like the bible says, and was sent to Rome to also study and be out of the way of the Bishop.
His pastor assignments, from the early 60's included Brevard, Smithfield, Greenville, Washington, Garner. Greenville was the longest, 10 years. Either before or after Smithfield, he was briefly editor of the North Carolina Catholic.
Charlie's great interests were: the crusade against war, (especially the nuclear bomb) about which he demonstrated numberless times at the Pentagon;
sponsored the Peace Booth every year at the State Fair and recruited people to man it; preached every Sunday practically on Matthew 25; dashed out to the migrant camps every Sunday night to have Mass and show movies; tried to get everybody to join BREAD FOR THE WORLD; went yearly to protest at the School of the Americas, the infamous training school for South and Central American officers; supported every good cause that came in the mail with three dollars each;
tirelessly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ for the poor, the needy, the hungry, the homeless; took into his house anybody who came down the road and needed a bed; a chaplain to students at ECU for ten years; and fought for civil rights.
Charlie burnt out his life on every good cause, starting as a youth with Dorothy Day on Mott Street in NY and the House of Hospitality and followed by much more. He was once called "the conscience of our diocese." According to Father Byron, Father Charlie "was probably the best priest we ever had in North Carolina."
He retired as an outspoken priest doing what he thought was right. He moved into a private residence in Raleigh and with his mental and physical health failing (he had contracted diabetes) he eventually moved up to New York to be near his family. He died in a nursing home on July 21, 2001.
Thanks to Father Charlie's brother, Pete and Father Byron for providing historical information
The Reverend Hugh Charles X. Mulholland
News and Observer February 2001
By PATRICK M. O'NEILL
The roads to Greenville are familiar to me. Miles of scenic flat highways lined on both sides by beautiful fields. For more than two decades I have raveled those roads, often serving as the willing chauffeur to my dear friend, the Rev. Hugh Charles Xavier Mulholland, the Diocese of Raleigh Catholic priest who first brought me to Greenville on August 19, 1977.
Father Charlie, as he is affectionately known to countless friends, would fill those trips with hours of stimulating conversation that I couldn't get enough of -- peace, justice, unions, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, you name it, Charlie would have a viewpoint that was compelling; a viewpoint that always gave preference to the oppressed. I realized immediately that Charlie marched to the beat of a different drummer.
Pulling into the parking lot of St. Gabriel Rectory on Greenville's West 5thSt. on that hot summer night almost 24 years ago was an experience that changed my life. I was 21 years old at the time, and that trip from my family home in Little Neck, Queens to Eastern North Carolina was like entering another world. The culture shock was nothing compared to the "Charlie shock."
After a short sleep that first night, Charlie had me up early. This time we were off to Chapel Hill for a meeting of the N.C. Civil Liberties Union. Charlie sat on the state board. Immediately Charlie started introducing me to scores of people who were doing important work for justice in a state not far removed from its segregationist past. I was astounded one morning over breakfast when I picked up the News & Observer to discover that Charlie had been among a group of prominent people who had met with Gov. James B. Hunt the previous day to urge the governor to pardon the Wilmington 10. Charlie was quoted in the story. He had never mentioned the meeting prior to my reading about it in the N&O.
In Greenville, I would sometimes accompany Charlie to a Pitt County NAACP meeting. We were usually the only whites there, but it was obvious that Charlie felt no discomfort -- and none was felt toward him. Charlie's ready smile and warm handshake always let people know they were in the presence of a good and caring man -- indeed a holy man.
The rectory doorbell at St. Gabriel rang constantly. Children came for the day-old donuts Charlie would pick up from a local bakery. The poor would come in search of help with a past-due bill.
Charlie told a story of a woman who said she needed some kerosene for her heater. When Charlie delivered the kerosene he discovered the woman had only a wood stove. She was probably planning to sell the kerosene. Charlie laughed it off. "God provides," Charlie once told me. Like the time he gave his last stash of cash to a beggar at his door.
Later that same day, a person showed up and gave Charlie an even larger donation to use as he saw fit.
Charlie was also well acquainted with the Catholic peace movement, a movement that gained momentum during the Viet Nam War years, and later in its opposition to nuclear weapons and U.S. military intervention in Central America. Charlie was on a first-name basis with renowned activists such as Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister. I was starting to
meet people I had only read about in the New York Times, people who were on the cutting edge of the effort to save humanity from its own folly. More than once I drove Charlie to Washington D.C. for demonstrations at the Pentagon and the White House.
Later, when I received a federal prison sentence for civil disobedience,
Charlie came to see me in an Atlanta minimum security prison. In the visiting room, I playfully introduced this short, balding priest to guards and inmates as "the man who is responsible for where I am today."
When Charlie left Greenville to take over Mother of Mercy Catholic Church down the road in Washington, his friends in Greenville roasted him. A cofounder of the Greenville Peace Committee, Charlie was a familiar sight at local demonstrations. At Greenville City Council meetings, Charlie was a regular, always fighting for the poor. At the roast, then-Greenville Mayor Percy Cox presented Charlie with a letter opener adorned with the City of Greenville seal. "We were going to give you the key to the city, but we were afraid you'd come back," Cox said as the audience roared.
As many people know, Charlie, now 79 years old, has been losing his memory with the onset of Alzheimer's Disease. For the past couple of years he has lived in an assisted living community in Raleigh. The Mulholland family decided to move Charlie, the oldest of seven children, to a nursing home in his native New York.
During his years in North Carolina, Charlie served parishes from Jacksonville to Brevard. He even served a stint on the Diocese of Raleigh's mobile chapel that traveled the state's back roads making stops in small towns to introduce people to this then-unknown Catholic faith.
Charlie and I made one last trip to Greenville this month to see some old friends. We had lunch at Lucille Gorham's home, just a few doors down from St. Gabriel. Lucille was Charlie's housekeeper and pastoral assistant for 10 years while he was in Greenville. After a hurried four-hour visit, Charlie and I got back into the car for the drive back to Raleigh. As we headed out of town on Highway 264, it occurred to me that this would be Charlie's final trip between Greenville and Raleigh. It would also be our last trip together. My chauffeuring services would no longer be needed.
Charlie quietly departed Raleigh Feb. 11 without fanfare. The humble priest who spent almost half a century of his life in tireless service to North Carolina is gone. In his homilies, Charlie always said the evidence of a person's fidelity to God can be measured by the number of friends he or she has. I am proud to be counted among Charlie's friends. I will miss him dearly.
(Patrick O'Neill is cofounder of Raleigh's St. Martin de Porres Catholic Worker House. Fr. Mulholland served as St. Martin House chaplain since it opened in 1991.)
The Reverend Hugh Charles X. Mulholland - Note from Mr. Jean Koszulinski
Just a brief note to let you know I just happened to be thinking of Father Charlie yesterday. I don't know why since I last saw him when he left Greenville in 1975/76. I was an ECU student that Father had a great impact on for years to come. I have since 1978 lived in New Jersey. He definitely changed my life and has continued to lead me in a life of faith by his memory. I will never forget those heady days of hope, change, ecumenicalism and even the guitar Masses in the biology building!
I decided to do an internet search and found your site. I was so saddened and numbed to see he had passed away. I just wanted to let you know that your council is named after a great man, a true saint. Your bio on him is so good, but it falls so short on how he impacted so many people in so many ways-day in and day out. You couldn't imagine the heart and love that exuded from this man. What an honor you have in having your chapter named after such a God loving person.
I can still recall the recessional song at his last Mass sung by the children of St Gabriel's, "Though the mountains may fall and the hills turn to dust, the love of our Lord will stand". And the banner hung at the altar for that Mass that I had memorized: Things will never be the same, In time you'll change and I, And so will the currents of our lives. But the image of this moment will never fade,This moment and you are inseparable.
The memory of that banner eased the pain of losing his regular friendship and the friendship of others when we moved or faced the death of someone.
Its ironic that I find this right before his birthday. I will certainly keep him in my prayers. I hope you have a grand celebration for a grand person!