Remembering John Molan and other good priests

The Rev. Monsignor John E. Molan died June 13 after a remarkable life. Of all the people I have had the privilege to know during my legal career, none was finer or more supportive than he.John Molan was the vicar general of the Diocese of Manchester, having been appointed by Bishop Odore Gendron in 1985 and serving until his retirement in 1998. As such, he had much to do with the day-to-day operations of the temporal assets of the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire, meaning he had to deal with purchase of real estate, maintenance of buildings, assets and other matters.John Molan was a native of the West Side of Manchester, an Irish kid in the French neighborhood. He attended St. Patrick Parish, the small Irish church down the ridge from Ste. Marie Parish, the handsome edifice constructed by French workers.John Molan attended West High School and St. Anselm College, both of which recognized him with honors as a distinguished alumnus, St. Anselm’s recognizing him as the “outstanding Catholic alumnus” and West High School inducting him into its Hall of Fame.Molan served in the Army during World War II and never lost his connection to or affinity for the Army and its veterans. He served as a chaplain, was a member of the American Legion and a great friend to all veterans and their activities. He was an outstanding member of the “Greatest Generation.”Molan served as pastor in several parishes in Portsmouth and Manchester and loved both communities. He headed New Hampshire Catholic Charities for many years and was especially interested and instrumental in the development of Catholic health care in New Hampshire, having been the first non-doctor trustee of St. Joseph Hospital and a founding trustee of Catholic Medical Center when it was formed through the merger of Notre Dame and Sacred Heart hospitals.However, none of his list of accomplishments really captures what a warm, gracious and caring friend John Molan was to everyone who came in contact with him. He had a twinkle that could brighten any day and when he asked others to do things, they inevitably would. He never complained and ministered to others until a couple of days prior to his death from a heart attack.John Molan contributed to New Hampshire by serving on many boards and commissions in the health and human services field. He never tried to call attention to himself but shone his light on others. Too little recognitionThis isn’t newsworthy just because a fine, decent, accomplished citizen of New Hampshire has left us. It is important because John Molan was the typical priest of a local diocese during the last 60 years.Unfortunately, the exceptions have been the focus of much news during the sex abuse scandals and other reports in the press, which loves to find fault with those held up to a supposedly higher standard.No group of people is perfect. But no group of people with whom I have come in contact during my law practice have been more interesting, more intelligent, more compassionate or more accomplished than the Roman Catholic clergy of the Diocese of Manchester.John Molan obviously was not the only New Hampshire priest worthy of note for his contributions, both individually and institutionally. Others who come to mind as examples (and this list is nowhere near complete) are Monsignor John Quinn, pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton in Bedford who, like Molan, headed New Hampshire Catholic Charities and has served the state well, Bishop Francis Christian, one of the finest intellectuals of the state, Monsignor Joseph Desmond, writer, thinker and friend to all who know him, the late Monsignor Philip Kenney, and his cousin, Monsignor Thomas Hannigan, late of St. Catherine Church, the late BishopLeo O’Neil and present Bishop John McCormack, a fine man who has received much criticism but has continued to lead the diocese tirelessly and faithfully.In John Molan, New Hampshire had a native son who was an example of compassion, caring, intellect and encouragement – with a lot of leprechaun thrown in for good measure. He is a reminder of the good that Catholic clergy – and clergy of all faiths – do for us all and our society, and they receive too little recognition and often too much criticism.Brad Cook is a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.