|Birth: ||Sep. 17, 1917, USA|
|Death: ||Jul. 20, 1998|
Monsignor Paul Walsh Clunan, Vicar General Papal Advisor
Ordained October 30, 1943. Served in the Dioceses of Nashville and Memphis in many capacities.
He was pastor of St. Louis Church for 34 years until his retirement in 1992. He is remembered as a great church builder by Rev. J. Peter Sartain, who took over as pastor of St. Louis Church and vicar general of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis when Clunan retired. "He basically built this parish from the ground up," Sartain said. "He was especially fond of children. His philosophy in that sense was that if you provide them with a safe environment to go to school and enjoy athletics, you'll keep them out of trouble and close to the church."
As a young priest in East Tennessee in the 1950s, Clunan saw crosses burn on his lawn courtesy of the Ku Klux Klan, and his response was to invite the burners inside his home to talk. Some did and eventually joined the church. The episode demonstrated Clunan's approach to religion and set the stage for his promotion of civil rights and unity among people of different faiths.
Sartain said members of St. Louis were having mass at St. Agnes School when Clunan took over as pastor in 1957. By 1958, a church was dedicated and work began on what eventually would include a school that has a kindergarten through eighth grade enrollment of 500 students. Sartain said he feels fortunate that Clunan remained in Memphis after retirement, calling him "my biggest fan" in the time he spent establishing himself as pastor. Msgr. John Batson, former pastor of the Church of the Holy Spirit, remembers Clunan as a "priest's priest" who made a big impression on him in his days as a student at Memphis Catholic High School. Clunan was a teacher who helped direct him toward the priesthood. "He was a very good priest, admired by all the priests and the people," Batson said. "I have the greatest admiration for him. He's done some great religious work."
In a written statement, Bishop J. Terry Steib, who heads the Diocese of Memphis, said it would be difficult to name any priest who had more impact on the Catholic Church in West Tennessee. "He was a wonderful pastor, an unwavering supporter of civil rights, and a friend and confidant to many priests," said Steib.
Clunan was born in Nashville, one of eight children of William and Julia Walsh Clunan. He was ordained in 1943 by the Bishop of Nashville and served as associate pastor of St. Thomas Church in Memphis until 1949. He also taught at Memphis Catholic High, 1945-1948. Clunan moved on to pastor at Immaculate Conception Church in Knoxville from 1949 to 1950, Our Lady of Fatima Church in Maryville and St. Mary's Chapel in Gatlinburg from 1950 to 1957. Clunan was made a monsignor in 1967 by Pope Paul VI. When the Catholic Diocese of Memphis was formed in 1971, Clunan was appointed vicar general of the diocese, serving under three bishops before his retirement. Clunan was known as a prominent leader in issues relating to human rights and justice during the civil rights movement. Maxine Smith, former executive secretary of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP, remembered Clunan offering support in "a gentle, positive, subtle way. "He was a gentle giant in my opinion," Smith said. "He was there when it was not popular to be there as a white man of the cloth, or a white man period. "He was always there and that was remarkable."
Bio details from Carole McCaig
Plot: Priests Mound
Created by: Vincent Astor
Record added: Jan 02, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 17256129