Dan and I first met in 1955 at Canisius High School where I was a senior and he a newly assigned Jesuit scholastic starting his teaching stint before ordination. We were surprised to find out that he was a veteran—who had lost one of his lungs in service, for that matter. None of us ever imagined Dan in military uniform. To us he was an unimposing, kindly figure who seemed temperamentally well-suited to be moderator of the poster club and the prefect of the school’s book store. We liked his friendly smile and wished him well, but no one regarded him as a contender for the faculty Wall of Fame. Dan just wasn’t the kind of heroic figure that we Crusaders took to heart as our champions.
Thirty years later we met again, this time in Micronesia. Dan had just been assigned to Guam to direct the pre-seminary there. This time Dan seemed to be in his proper milieu—heading a training program for candidates to the priesthood or religious life on an island that was relaxed and as unthreatening as the man himself. For years he enrolled his seminarians in college programs, walked them through the essentials of prayer, taught them how to cook a simple community dinner, and waited on edge in the evenings until all the cars were safely back in the parking lot.
But, in truth, Dan Mulhauser did a lot more than that. He seemed to know just about everyone on the island, and half of them he could count as his personal friends. Dan was forever jotting down names and phone numbers in his famous “little black book” and using it to keep track of his endless appointments with those who sought his help. Then, of course, there were Dan’s birthday parties, legendary for the number of guests who attended—more than the number at one of the island’s sports events, we would joke. My own birthday party, a day after Dan’s, was always tiny by comparison. Yet, those birthday parties of Dan’s were anything but empty displays; they were one sign of the degree to which this non-heroic figure had won the hearts of all those who had come to know him. Dan may not have had his own parish, but he had lots of faithful followers who were happy to claim Dan as their priest.
Then in 1994 Dan moved to Palau where he served for a few years as director of novices in the new Jesuit novitiate. After that he began his retirement—not all at once, but in stages. After another short stint in Guam, he returned to the US to take up residence at the Lemoyne campus in Syracuse, NY. When he could no longer serve even as alumni chaplain, he still went around visiting the host of friends until he was unable to drive because of his age. Finally, within the past year, Dan had to say goodbye to his flock in Syracuse, as he had done years some twenty years earlier on Guam, to head off to the Jesuit infirmary in New York.
I can’t count the number of people in recent years who have made a point of inquiring how Fr. Dan was doing. Even after the string of birthday parties ended, his friends never stopped asking about him. But why not? He was always special to them, just as they had been to him.
There’s no reason to expect that bond to end now.