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Bishop Robert E. Mulvee recalled as ‘a priest’s priest, a bishop’s bishop and a people’s bishop’

Bishop Barres
Bishop John O. Barres of Rockville Centre delivers the homily Jan. 10 at the funeral Mass for Bishop Robert E. Mulvee, the seventh bishop of Wilmington. Bishop Barres is a former Wilmington priest and longtime friend of Bishop Mulvee. Photo/Rhode Island Catholic.

If there is a signature phrase Bishop Robert E. Mulvee carried with him throughout his priesthood, it is to “pray for those who have no one to pray for them.”

Brother bishop and former Diocese of Wilmington priest John O. Barres asked mourners in his homily to remember the words of Bishop Mulvee as dozens of priests, bishops and other faithful gathered for the seventh bishop of Wilmington’s funeral Mass at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul on Jan. 10 in Providence, R.I.

Bishop Mulvee
Dozens of priests concelebrate the funeral Mass for Bishop Robert E. Mulvee on Jan 10 in Providence, R.I. Photo/Rhode Island Catholic

Bishop Mulvee, who served in Manchester, N.H., Wilmington and Providence, died Dec. 28 after a brief illness. He was 88.

“Bishop Mulvee walked with the biblical and eucharistic Jesus throughout his life,” said Bishop Barres, the bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., and longtime friend of Bishop Mulvee. “He developed the heart and perspective of a great global churchman. It was a heart stoked by hours upon hours of silent prayer in front of the Most Blessed Sacrament.”

Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin was principal celebrant and was joined by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford and others. The 90-minute service was live-streamed online.

Bishop Tobin told family and friends at the start of Mass that it was “certainly a moment of loss and sorrow,” but that it was “warmed by the memories of Bishop Mulvee and the comforting grace of Jesus.”

Bishop Mulvee
Concelebrating the funeral Mass for Bishop Robert E. Mulvee on Jan 10 in Providence, R.I., are, from left, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Providence Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Providence Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans. Photo/Rhode Island Catholic

In his homily, Bishop Barres recalled his friend’s generosity, humility and compassion.

“Bishop Mulvee was a priest’s priest, a bishop’s bishop and a people’s bishop,” Bishop Barres said. He said the bishop promoted the sanctity of life above all else. He also said Bishop Mulvee knew the power of small deeds of charity.

“Bishop Mulvee, thank you for reminding us we are loved and cherished by God and no detail of our lives is unimportant to him,” Bishop Barres said.

Bishop Mulvee was appointed the seventh bishop of Wilmington by St. John Paul II in April 1985. He served in that role until he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Providence in February 1995. He retired in 2005.

Bishop Barres repeated a favorite story that was meaningful to Bishop Mulvee, who described the day he was installed as coadjutor bishop in Providence. He said a group of priests and friends from Wilmington arrived for the ceremony and lunch after his installation in Providence. He said members of the group were wearing buttons that read “Return Mulvee and no one gets hurt.”

Bishop Mulvee
Msgr. Thomas Cini and Bishop Mulvee

In an October letter congratulating the Diocese of Wilmington on its 150th anniversary, Bishop Mulvee wrote of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland: “The people were wonderful, and the priests were really good to me. I quickly came to love and cherish people in both states.”

Bishop Malooly, the ninth bishop of Wilmington, plans to celebrate a memorial Mass for Bishop Mulvee on Jan. 13 at 12:30 p.m. at the historic Cathedral of St. Peter, Sixth and North West streets, Wilmington. Bishop Malooly recalled Bishop Mulvee as “a cherished and faith-filled leader who will be greatly missed.”

Burial was Jan. 10 at St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston.