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The Rev. Richard L. Mullen, 92, of Champaign died at 2:40 am on Friday, March 23, 2018 at home.
The visitation will be held on Tuesday, March 27 from 4-7 pm at the Holy Cross Parish Center (405 W. Clark, Champaign) with a parish wake service beginning at 7:30pm. Funeral services will be held at 11am on Wednesday, March 28 at Holy Cross Catholic Church, where Fr. Mullen served as pastor for 13 years. The Most Reverend Daniel R. Jenky CSC, D.D. will officiate. The Knights of Columbus will serve as the honor guard. Burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Champaign. Owens Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
Father Mullen was born December 17, 1925, in Urbana, the youngest of 6 children of Robert E. and Katherine A. Mullen. His family lived in Farmer City until moving to Bloomington in 1937, where he attended Trinity Grade School and Trinity High School, graduating in 1943.
Father Mullen began his college studies at the University of Illinois in 1943 but after enlisting in the Naval Reserve in February 1944, continued his college education at Indiana State University, where he played football. Feeling the call to serve his country, Father Mullen joked that he chose the Navy because he knew he “would always have a nice place to sleep and three meals a day.” He didn’t realize he would suffer from seasickness.
Father Mullen served in the hospital corps during the occupation of Japan. Released from the Navy in 1946, he returned to the U of I, where he received his degree in journalism in 1948. While there, he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and became a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus.
While working as an editor of the Rantoul Press in 1948 and 1949, the call to the priesthood that had begun while he was in the Navy, grew louder. He entered the seminary in 1948, receiving a philosophy degree from St. Ambrose University in Davenport, IA and continuing his theology studies at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.
Father Mullen was ordained a priest on May 29, 1955. His first assignment was as an assistant at St. Mary’s Parish, Moline, under then-Vicar General Monsignor James B. Reidy. In 1957 he was appointed chaplain of Guardian Angel Home, Peoria. While in this position he taught at Bradley University and the School of Nursing of St. Francis Hospital, both in Peoria.
A highlight of his tenure at Guardian Angel was the advent in 1962 of a contingent of Cuban children fleeing the Communist rule of Fidel Castro, who had recently installed himself as dictator. Father Mullen ministered to them and helped oversee their education. They showed their appreciation 47 years later when they held a reunion in Champaign, where Father Mullen was then stationed.
In 1965 Father Mullen began a two-year stint as an assistant chaplain at St. John’s Chapel and Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It’s long-serving director was the legendary Monsignor Edward J. Duncan. Father Mullen’s first pastoral assignment was to St. Michael’s Parish in Bement. He served there five years before being named executive director of the Diocesan Personnel Board and associate editor of The Catholic Post in 1972-1973. He held those positions for 10 years.
Upon returning from a sabbatical at Vatican II Institute of Menlo Park, CA, Father Mullen spent 5 months as administrator at Sacred Heart Parish, Farmer City and St. John’s Mission, Bellflower.
In 1984, Father Mullen became the pastor of Holy Cross Church in Champaign, his home parish during both his time in the Navy and the seminary. During his nearly 14 years at Holy Cross he touched the lives of scores of parishioners with his quiet yet effective spiritual leadership.
Among physical accomplishments to the parish during his tenure were the demolition of the old school, the transplanting of the old rectory to The Center for Women in Transition, the remodeling of a rental property into a rectory, an addition to the school, the construction of the parish center, and the restoration of the priceless stained glass church windows.
Besides his parents, Father Mullen was preceded in death by 3 sisters and 2 brothers. He is survived by 4 nephews and 6 nieces.
Memorials may be made to Holy Cross School (410 West White, Champaign, IL 61820) or The High School of St. Thomas More (3901 N. Mattis, Champaign, IL 61822).
Holy Cross Catholic School
410 West White Street, Champaign IL 61820
The High School of St. Thomas More
3901 N. Mattis Avenue, Champaign IL 61822