My favorite clergyman was Fr. Malloy of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, a small community of about 15,000 people. St. Joseph’s church had two priests, Fr. Zander and Fr. Malloy. Although the pastor, Fr. Zander, was friendly and even amusing, it was Fr. Malloy who made the better impression on me.
He was a man whose interests went in many directions. I remember seeing a picture postcard from him which showed him standing in the center behind a lectern, in his black clergy suit and white collar, with tennis racket, golf clubs, baseball bat, glove, and sacred vestments to his right and left.
He had no ear for music which made attending his sung High Masses an adventure in nearly reached notes and never-before heard warblings. Despite his unusual singing voice, his speaking voice was clear and understandable, his homilies from the heart and relevant.
For years when he visited our family, he would badger us with a riddle which went like this.
A man was in jail. One day he had a visitor come visit him. After the visitor left, his cellmate asked “who was that man?” And the man said “brothers and sisters, I have none, but that man’s father is my father’s son.” Who was he?
He wouldn’t give us the answer and it seemed to me he kept us in suspense for years. That was the thing about Fr. Malloy. You kept wanting to be around him.
One morning, at an early hour, with my Milwaukee Sentinel Bag full of yet to-be-delivered-newspapers, my bike broke down. Not knowing what else to do, since my dad was out of town, I headed to the rectory where Fr. Zander and Fr. Malloy lived. I think it was Fr. Malloy who answered the door. I explained my problem and off we went making sure everyone on my route had their morning paper in time for breakfast.
When my mother learned that dad had abandoned us, leaving us for the moment homeless, my brother and I were shuffled off to the rectory to live with the priests until our family could get a place of its own. It was while staying there that I learned a bit of table wisdom from Fr. Malloy. He said that if you ever want that last piece of meat on the dinner table but you don’t want to appear selfish, you simply ask “would someone like to share that last piece of meat with me. That way you at least get some.” I was astonished by such cleverness matched with manners.
Fr. Malloy was a fun-loving, accessible man of God when our family was in the greatest need. I will always be grateful for the time he was in my life as my priest.