ONE of the longest-serving Catholic priests in the Lothians has left his church after more than two decades in post.
Canon Joseph McMullan, 74, is to leave Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael’s Church in Musselburgh and will lead the smaller parishes of St Mary’s in Haddington and Our Lady of the Waves in Dunbar.
The role of parish priest in Musselburgh has been taken over by Father Basil Clark, who previously served in Galashiels in the Borders.
In recognition of his 23 years of service, parishioners in Musselburgh are planning a goodbye bash for the popular East Lothian priest, which they hope to hold in March.
Praise has flooded in for “Canon Joe”, as he is known locally, with parishioners saying he would be deeply missed and wishing him well in his new post while he prepares to wind down ahead of full retirement.
But they were also quick to welcome his successor to the thriving parish in Musselburgh, which is 1850-strong and is the largest in the local deanery.
Councillor John McNeil, a life-long member of Our Lady of Loretto, said Canon McMullan would be missed in the town, adding that everyone would be sorry to see him go after so many years.
But he also said there was delight at the selection of Father Clark, who is viewed as a worthy successor.
He said: “Basil Clark was the right person to carry on our faith in Musselburgh. Canon McMullan will be very much missed by all, but we move on and change is good for everyone, both for Father Joe and Musselburgh.”
Cllr McNeil said the parish at Our Lady of Loretto had a population of well over 1800 and as such demanded the energy of a younger man.
“On behalf of East Lothian Council I wish them both well in their new charges,” he added.
During his 23 years of service in Musselburgh, Canon McMullan was always keen to apply his faith in countries throughout the world and his work has reached many other parts of the globe.
In 2005, he and his parishioners from Our Lady of Loretto and St Michael funded the establishment of the Parish of Our Lady of Loretto in Fadama Mada, Bauchi, in the north eastern part of Nigeria, despite growing levels of social unrest.
Although churches around Our Lady of Loretto have since been destroyed due to recent riots involving Muslim and Christian groups, Our Lady of Loretto has remained untouched and continues to serve local communities throughout the region.
Cllr McNeil added: “Canon Joe served our community for 23 years and, of course, we are sad to lose him. This is a smaller parish for him.”
Canon McMullan will make his home in Dunbar after taking up his post at St Mary’s and Our Lady of the Waves.