South of La
Grange on U.S. 77*, a marker
recognizes Father Michael Muldoon, priest and pal of early Texas
settlers. The stone in Ireland pays homage to the Muldoon ancestors,
a family that must have been in Ireland at least as long as St.
Who knows. Maybe St. Patrick converted the Muldoons in the fifth
century … when he was bringing Christianity to the pagans in Ireland.
In the 19th century it would be the mission of Father Muldoon to
bring Catholicism to the Protestants in Texas.
You may have read that the pioneer padre didn’t take his job seriously
enough and that’s how the disparaging term, “Muldoon Catholics,”
Mexico required colonists in Texas
to join the Catholic Church, and Father Muldoon could make it so
in about 30 seconds.
“With papal authority invested in me, I proclaim you to be Roman
Catholics,” Father Muldoon intoned, concluding the ceremony by making
the sign of the cross.
Anyone genuinely interested in becoming a Catholic probably thought,
“Is that all there is?”
In Father Muldoon’s opinion, the brief rite sufficed for colonists
who only wanted to obtain a land grant from the Mexican government.
For true converts, he was quite willing to serve as their spiritual
director and indoctrinate them in the faith. For others, he could
be downright ecumenical.
In a poem printed in a San Felipe newspaper, Father Muldoon wrote,
“May all religion discord fall, and friendship be the creed of all.
With tolerance your pastor views all sects of Christians, Turks
The padre drew harsh criticism from those with a more orthodox outlook.
Critics claimed that Father Muldoon was flippant about his faith
and was more interested in socializing than in blessing the sacraments.
He also was known as Marryin’ Muldoon, conducting multiple marriage
ceremonies at one time. Usually, a big barbecue followed the group
wedding, and a good time was had by all, including Father Muldoon.
son of a prosperous farmer, he grew up in the County Cavan in Ireland,
and many of his kin still reside in that region.
He was ordained at the Irish College of Seville, Spain, one of several
Irish Catholic colleges established in Europe. He came to Mexico
in 1821 and to Texas a decade later.
Having met the amiable priest for the first time in Saltillo, Stephen
F. Austin was pleased to learn that Father Muldoon would be serving
as the curate vicar general for his colony in Texas.
And that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Muldoon helped as an interpreter in San
Felipe where all government negotiations were conducted in Spanish,
and he taught Austin how to read, write and speak Spanish.
the “forgotten hero of Texas,” Muldoon was in deed a hero who never
has been given enough recognition.
in June 1832 he offered himself as a hostage to free prisoners held
by John Davis Bradburn but his offer was not accepted.
Later that summer he published a paper in Mexico, defending the
conduct of the rebellious Texans. Now, that took courage!
Father Muldoon was in Mexico City in 1834 when Austin was imprisoned
and he was the only visitor allowed for many months.
At one point he persuaded a North American businessman to post bail
for Austin but the government rejected the bond offer.
Muldoon then pleaded with President Santa Anna to release Austin,
and he finally did in the summer of 1835.
William H. Wharton was serving as minister to the United States
from the Republic of Texas in 1837 when he was incarcerated in Mexico.
Again, Father Muldoon to the rescue. Providing Wharton with a nun’s
habit, he enabled the “sister” to escape and return to Texas.
Muldoon himself was thrown in prison in Mexico in 1839. A passenger
on a ship sailing from New Orleans to Veracruz, he was arrested
upon arrival. Authorities charged him with “being too friendly with
Whatever happened to the friendly priest? God only knows. As one
writer said, Father Muldoon just seemed to “walk off the stage of
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
May 1, 2014 column