This first reading from the Book of Macabees is as Catholic as anything in our Bible! We know that not all Christians accept this reading as part of Scripture - consequently not all Christians think it holy and pious to pray for the dead.
Eulogy for Fr. Jerry McMullen by Fr. Matt Walsh
The reading is as Catholic as it gets and so we are gathered here today to pray for our brother Jerry McMullen. We pray for him are not because we think that he was a terrible sinner, but because we all know sin is part of the life of everyone. Our prayers are to help him as he stands at the judgment seat of God so, having entered eternal life, he might continue to help us! This reading – this funeral Mass is as Catholic as it gets!
And Jerry McMullen’s family was as Catholic as it gets! He was the second of six children – both his sisters are Religious of the Sacred Heart – two of his brothers joined the Jesuits – and one brother married and raised a family – as Catholic as it gets!
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that none of us lives for himself nor does anyone die for oneself – if we live, we live for the Lord, if we die, we die for the Lord.
These verses from the Letter to the Romans are clearly appropriate for his funeral Mass. But these verses have always seemed appropriate for Jerry – especially since he joined the Order 70 years ago!
Jerry did not live for himself – his curriculum vitae reads like the Province Mission Statement! “We are to communicate the Word first of all through preaching,” and that was Jerry’s first love. Despite his many skills as administrator, I suspect his happiest years were as a member of the mission band for that gave him the opportunity to get the Word out.
Our mission statement reminds us of the importance of a vowed community life.
Community life - not only did Jerry live in community – he enlivened every community to which he belonged! When we lived together at Holy Rosary, there was never a dull evening meal – never a boring community meeting. If the prior wanted to cut things short, chances are Jerry had a few more things he thought we should hear!
But Jerry’s love of and concern for community went beyond his local community. Perhaps more than most of us, Jerry welcomed the idea of the Province Assembly because that meant he could spend time with a larger community – and could make his views known to the rest of us! After our last Assembly, someone wondered if it was valid – not only did he not hear Jerry’s opinion on this or that challenge facing us, he wasn’t even able to attend!
The second reading concludes with the reminder that each of us must give an account of him or herself to God. What will Jerry say? Perhaps he will paraphrase Bl. John XXIII – “I have not refused to live - so I am not afraid to die.” Jerry did not refuse to live – he took the Council and all of the changes in the church and Order in stride. He did not refuse to live – he is the only person I know that every visited Katmandu! He did not refuse to live - his 90th birthday party was a celebration of life – a gathering of people he knew and loved over the years – including someone who served his Mass here at St. Pius 60 years ago! He did not refuse to live and he was not afraid to die – because I think he saw death more as a sunrise than a sunset – more of a beginning than an end.
Long before we had a province mission statement committing us to the promotion of justice and peace, Jerry took seriously this gospel of reaching out to the least of the little ones.
Social Justice Education was at the heart of his ministry in Minneapolis. He began that ministry when he was at least as old as I am today – and I don’t think that I have the energy to follow his example!
Jerry knew that whatsoever we do for the least of the little ones, we do for Christ – he wanted everyone to know that – and knowing that be more attentive to the needs of the poor. Feeding the hungry through the Loaves and Fishes Program was only the tip of the iceberg – why were they hungry? Who was responsible? What changes had to be made to solve the problem?
But long before Minneapolis, he was committed to the least of the little ones. After a few years as pastor at Holy Name in Kansas City, he realized the changing demographics required a bold change. It could not have been easy for him to work on the closing of the parish – we had been there forever – but the needs of the people came before his need to be pastor!
We believe that the parable of the gospel has become reality for our brother. And so we ask God to be merciful - “to do for this little one” what he so often did for others. We ask this for his sake – and for ours – we need him to continue to help us live out our Dominican lives!