Deacon Patrick Mullan first felt called to the priesthood at a very young age, when he and his three sisters would “play Mass” at home. Nearly 30 years later, he will be ordained on June 15 as a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington, after a long journey to the seminary, out of the seminary, and back again.

Growing up at the Shrine of St. Jude in Rockville, Deacon Mullan was inspired by the priests he got to know there. He was homeschooled, and received his First Communion at home in his mother’s basement. As the priest got to know him, he asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, and he said he wanted to be a priest.

In high school, Deacon Mullan began spiritual direction with newly ordained Father Scott Woods, who is now an assistant vocations director for the archdiocese of Washington. After graduating, he attended the St. John Neumann Seminary Residency at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he got his undergraduate degree in philosophy.

Deacon Mullan then went to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg for first theology, did a pastoral year at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, returned to Mount St. Mary’s for second theology, and then began a second pastoral year at St. Catherine Labouré in Wheaton before discerning out of the seminary.

“I realized I wasn’t approaching formation with the right mindset,” he said.

Father Woods helped him discern that decision, and several months later called him to ask if he would move to Southern Maryland to work with him as a youth minister and campus minister. After initially saying no, because it didn’t follow his plan of “life according to Pat,” he said, he changed his mind and accepted the job offer, even though he didn’t know how he would make ends meet.

“It was an act of faith,” he said. And soon afterward, a family that Father Woods knew agreed to allow Deacon Mullan to live with them while he worked down there.

“St. Mary’s County became a place of freedom for me,” he said. “…A lot of healing came into my life while down there.”

After being there for a few years, Deacon Mullan took his youth group to the Mount 2000 retreat, held at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, which he had previously attended as a teenager and as a seminarian. On the last day of the retreat, the leaders ask any teenagers who might have a vocation to the priesthood or religious life to stand up.

As he watched some of his youth group kids stand up, he said he felt God asking him, “What about you, Pat? Do you have an answer?”

After that experience, he returned to spiritual direction and decided to re-apply to the seminary for the Archdiocese of Washington, because he thought, “if anyone knows me and knows my faults, it is D.C.,” and he wanted an honest answer to discern if it was God’s will for him to return.

This time, his discernment was more peace-filled, honest, and freedom-based, he said. For the first time since the beginning of formation, Deacon Mullan’s prayer was  “Lord, these are good options, you tell me,” he said, noting that before, his prayer had always been, “Lord, make me a priest.”

Deacon Mullan re-entered seminary at Theological College in Washington in 2015, and will be ordained to the priesthood on June 15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, with Father Scott Woods as the priest who will vest him.

Now, when asked what he is most excited about as he is ordained a priest, Deacon Mullan said it is the “normal, everyday things,” like the day he moves in to his first parish.

“I’ve been imagining that day for so long – since childhood – becoming that parish’s priest,” he said. Other things he said he is excited about include talking to the parish’s staff, eating meals with his fellow priests, and apologizing for the mistakes he will inevitably make as a priest.

Deacon Mullan has been praying for that first parish and its pastor since his first Mount 2000 retreat in high school.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting them for a very long time,” he said.