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Rev. Msgr. Thomas E. Molloy

Deceased: 2022-02-06


CSM Graduation Year: 1977

Reverend Monsignor Thomas E. Molloy, JCD, member of the CLSA since 1977, died on February 6, 2022. Monsignor Molloy was a priest of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Though no official obituary has been posted, Father Jim Sheehan has written an obituary of his own, which you may read here.

Tom Molloy (a Monsignor, and former officialis of Diocese of Rockville Centre, aka. “Mad Man Molloy,” and U.S. Military Reserve Chaplain) died after a long siege on February 6, 2022. This also was my mother’s birthday. She, born in a blizzard, would have been 102.

Both gave birth.

Let’s talk about the birthing process by the cigar-smoking, down- to-earth canon lawyer who served as my Spiritual Director. In second theology at the North American College, we talked in one of the relatively small rooms of the legendary Casa Santa Maria in bella Roma back in the last century in the late ‘70’s. These evening chats were full of the stated Spirit of Vatican II, and the ending of a provincial, small- world view of Catholicism. The spiritual direction sessions were done well before the awareness of the sexual abuse scandals.

Yes; it was a different age.

Enthusiasm and warmth marked our sessions. Well, he at least tried to encourage me on the positive steps to diaconate and priesthood.

The content has basically been forgotten to a large degree, but I swear to all that spiritual direction was – and is– basic to the life of integrity and cohesion in the life of a modern seminarian and priest in a confusing world.To be sure, there was the time that it was absolutely essential that I talk with my spiritual director.

I was all set to leave the seminary in Rome, miss the semester exams in January, and get home well-rested to enjoy the Super Bowl with family and friends. After a long honest talk with Tom, and probably on the way to Dreher’s, a German beer hall as our session ended, we both came to the startling conclusion that I did not even like football that much! Baseball would be another issue—but I really did not want to leave the seminary for states-side football — loneliness notwithstanding
So what did I learn from him?

His methodology was key.

His silently prayed the rosary for ½ of an hour for the good use of the ministry of spiritual direction—before I got there! He also gave compliments generously – apparently applying the canonical principle that “Permissions were to be granted generously; penalties in a most limited way.” (For the Latinists still among us,”Odia restringi, et favores convenit ampliari!”

His love of the mind was evident, but humbling. When I ran into another canon lawyer from his diocese in the square of Saint Peter’s, that is when I learned that that Tom was a member of MENSA, an association of persons with very high IQ’s. I never heard it from Tom.

This priest’s love of the Church was very different from the rhetoric on the Church that still had shades of Church triumphalism that filtered more than a few discussions in Rome. He had no illusions about the inner workings of the Church. With his hearty laugh, he said more than once that if the headquarters of the diocese fell off the face of the earth that the average priest would not even notice. Unbeknownst to him, perhaps he was being prophetic. The property of that diocese’s headquarters was recently sold to pay back some of the lawsuits. His love of Christ in the Church meant he actively chose to continue to expand his horizons and that of his directee. He enjoyed going to the Little Sisters of the Gospel—the Charles de Foucauld group near Tre Fontani in Rome. They had chosen manual labor to witness to the hidden life of Jesus as a working-class person. More than once, he took me to a very early morning Liturgy that he celebrated in an Eastern Rite, as the sisters often worked in non-Western lands. With his Irish twinkle, this future monsignor would humbly admit that he was bi-ritual (Roman and Melkite), because the Eastern Rite priests always had time for him when he was doing his natural teenage rebellion from the norms of his good family’s style of Church in a large, routinized Roman rite parish in Brooklyn.

He was not a priest who lived in the past. Tom was steeped in the Redemptorist tradition of his first seminary. He would also praise the new post-Vatican II seminary for he observed that when my generation found what got us excited in prayer, we would engage it in freedom –-and not with guilt.

In that age of nearly too many seminarians (imagine!), he was bounced from a religious missionary order because he was considered too intellectual at that time. He was abruptly transferred to the diocesan seminary—and then a secretary put him and his file into the newly formed, adjacent diocese, rather than one where his family lived.

With the laughter of Issac, he was through transferring and did not complain that much about the mistake in paperwork. He would use his abundant gifts in wherever the people and the bishop needed him. He meant what he prayed simply: “An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

He was proud of his parishioners. He jumped for joy as he introduced me to a husband and wife who were traveling to the Eternal City as middle-class pilgrims. The eternally elusive spiritual life for him included the pastoral; there were no artificial distinctions for him. His Catholicity precluded any artificial distinctions between the sacred and the mundane. I hope and pray that has rubbed off on me. If God were a living part of the heritage of the Eternal City, so was the future for this energetic and fun-loving priest. Knowing that he was finishing – of all things a doctorate in Canon Law from the Gregorian University that spring – he went out of his way to suggest that I try out a particular spiritual director whom he recommended for the fall. This priest was a sincere “lifer,” one who began in high school seminary as I had done to consider the Lord’s call. This new relationship worked out very well for two years, including diaconate promises, and priesthood ordination at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral on the Feast of the Roman Martyrs.

Back in the states, our paths did not cross that much. We both could unwisely claim busyness. I did hear that Tom was doing due diligence in applying mercy and common sense to annulments and canonical issues. Tom also served as pastor of two working-class parishes. One of these was bustling with immigrants—both those who were considered legal and those who were considered illegal. That did not matter to him; all that mattered to him was the joy of sharing the faith.

Somehow, he found the time to be an active military chaplain and served in the reserves. He, a former resister to the Vietnam War, wanted to be close to the men and women serving overseas. Father Tom did just that. He suffered with young troops, often people of color. His last years in retirement were very difficult for his friends and himself as they all had seen and felt too much in human destruction and carnage.

What did I learn from him?

“Keep it simple!” if you want to serve the Church and her people in a complex age.

And yes, “Laugh!”

(Written by Father James Sheehan, Jr who is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York for 42 years. He has served 23 years in Campus Ministry in community colleges in the City University of New York. His phone is 718-289-5954.