James Michael Mulhearn was born on February 17, 1942, in Independence, MO, the only child of Kenneth Francis and Marje Nell Butler Mulhearn. In a recent recording on The God Minute, Fr. Mike shared that by their example, his parents instilled in him a devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary. This firm foundation in faith led Fr. Mike to attend St. John’s Seminary in Kansas City, St. Vincent’s College in Cape, then on to St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perryville, MO. While at The Barrens, Fr. Mike professed permanent vows as a member of the Congregation of the Mission on May 29, 1964.
After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s, Fr. Mike earned an M.A. in theology from DeAndreis Seminary in Lemont, IL, in 1968. He was ordained a deacon in May 1967. The following year, along with his Vincentian classmates Pat Harrity, Michael O’Grady, Paul Sauerbier, Theodore Lapus, Bill Bogel, Ralph Panza, and Chas Shelby, Fr. Mike was ordained a priest.
Fr. Mike’s first assignment after ordination was as an associate pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Chicago. During his time there, he was able to work on obtaining an M.A. in counseling. Fr. Mike was dedicated to serving God’s people and to lifelong learning. His other parish assignments included St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Perryville and St. Patrick’s parish in LaSalle, IL. He also served at St. Vincent de Paul Seminary in Lemont, IL, and St. John’s Seminary in Kansas City. The majority of his ministry was spent serving at the Vincentian Parish Mission Center, first in Independence, MO, then in Leawood, KS, beginning in 1983 and continuing until his move to the Vincentian Lazarist Residence in St. Louis in 2021. In some of these assignments, he served as Superior of the house and served the Province as a member of the Provincial Finance Committee and as a Provincial Consultor.
During his time at Lazarist House, Fr. Mike continued his private practice in counseling, maintaining an online professional relationship with 30 clients.
In 1994, a woman named Cassie, along with her teenaged daughters, attended a parish mission led by Fr. Mike. Cassie was so moved by the experience that she was led to write a letter to the Visitor. She stated,
“…I felt privileged to be at a Mass with such a man. He made the words of Christ come alive and the whole church was so quiet you could hear a pin drop…I have never been at a Mass where the priest cared so much about being there as Father Mulhearn. You are very blessed to have him in your order. My daughters were also extremely impressed…(M)y oldest told me he made her proud to be a Catholic…Thank you for Father Mulhearn and thank you for sharing him with us. I feel like he has been a blessing in my life, the life of my children, and the whole Church.”
In addition to his pastoral work, Fr. Mike was a licensed counselor. He earned a Ph.D. in adolescent psychology from Heed School of Psychology and Education in Miami, FL. He held certificates and diplomas as a private investigator and a forensic psychologist and was a member of the American Association of Sexual Education Counselors and Therapists, the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, the Association for Conflict Resolution, the American Board of Sexology, the American Association of Clinical Sexologists, the American Association of Christian Counselors, the American Psychological Association, and the National Board of Forensics Professionals. He also served on the Provincial Mental Health Taskforce.
In his spare time, Fr. Mike was an accomplished musician and jazz pianist, he hosted a radio talk show in Illinois, was a contributor to The God Minute, and was a private pilot. His experience as a pilot meshed well with his role as Civil Air Patrol Chaplain.
On Saturday, October 21, Fr. Mike departed this life at his home at the Vincentian Lazarist Residence in St. Louis, MO. In accordance with his wishes, his remains will be cremated, and he will be buried in his family’s cemetery plot in Independence, MO. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. (CST) on Nov. 14 at St. Catherine Laboure Church in Sappington, MO. The Mass will be available to view online HERE.
Confreres and friends remember Fr. Mike as a good storyteller, someone with a great sense of humor, who was very positive and joyful, who never had a negative word to say about anyone, was very talented, and who loved being a priest.
In a letter Fr. Mike wrote to a confrere in 1982, he summarized his vocation, stating,
“I feel that I must be with people that have never been touched by the Church or feel that they are no longer part of it – I must go back to the runaways, victimized, and cast-off kids. I must try to lead divorced and remarried Catholics back to the Church and help them understand that they are loved by God, too… I love this Community because I want to do what Vincent did.”
Well done, good and faithful servant. Come share your master’s joy. Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.
In April of 2023, Fr. Mulhearn was the featured interview in the Province’s Conversations with Confreres video series. You can watch the video HERE.