Posted February 01, 2021
Fr. Joseph McNulty, longtime pastor of St. Augustine Catholic Church, recently retired from his role as pastor as well as director of Catholic Charities Disability Ministries.
Below we highlight his years of tremendous ministry and service, both with the Diocese of Cleveland and Catholic Charities.
Family & Ordination
Ordained in 1969, Fr. Joe comes from a large family of seven other siblings, including two brothers who followed him into the seminary.
While one became a priest, the other—Dennis McNulty—did not. Instead, Dennis spent his life ministering to persons with disabilities, just as Fr. Joe did. In fact, Fr. Joe's brother also served Catholic Charities. For 25 years, Dennis McNulty served as Director of Catholic Charities Disability Services, before his retirement in 2018.
Service to St. Augustine & Disability Ministries
Just three years after his ordination, Fr. Joe was asked to serve as chaplain to the Cleveland Catholic Deaf Community. He quickly learned sign language so that persons who were deaf could have a signing priest with whom to identify. Today he is one of just three priests in the Diocese of Cleveland who signs for the deaf.
In 1977, Fr. Joe became pastor of St. Augustine. Along with Sr. Corita, Fr. Joe set to work on expanding the church's ministries to persons with disabilities, as well as those experiencing homelessness and economic hardship.
Because of their dedication and compassion, St. Augustine became a model church and community for how to welcome persons with disabilities, which remains so today.
Fr. Joe strongly believes in ministering with people. At St. Augustine, you will see individuals with disabilities serving as readers, Eucharistic ministers, signing and singing in the deaf choir and the church choir, as well as interpreting the readings or Mass when Fr. Joe is not there.
In addition to his role as pastor at St. Augustine, Fr. Joe became the Director of the Apostolate for the Deaf, which then became Catholic Charities Ministry to Persons with Disabilities (now Catholic Charities Disability Ministries). In this role, Fr. Joe served persons who are deaf, blind, persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities (IDD), and persons with mental health issues and/or mobility challenges.
Fr. Joe has developed programs and facilitated retreats for persons with IDD and their families and friends. He has conducted numerous in-services to religious educators and teachers in developing religious education programs appropriate for children and adults with IDD. He has also been written about and interviewed on the local news and by many national publications, and has received several awards for his ministry.
Embodying the Mission of Catholic Charities
The following is from a bio on Fr. Joe, written by his brother Dennis, which perfectly sums up Fr. Joe and what he means to the community:
"Fr. Joe creates community and shares his ministry with everyone. His humor, his down to earth manner, and his genuine concern and openness has drawn people, revitalized his parish and created a vibrant ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland. Fr. Joe's greatest love is to serve as minister. When there is someone in need, he is there."
Fr. Joe is a true example of the mission of Catholic Charities. He has dedicated his life to continuing Jesus' work. He responds to those in need. He respects the dignity of every person. He builds a just and compassionate society.
Thank you, Fr. Joe, for your incredible service, and congratulations on a truly remarkable career.