Rich Mullins truly wanted to become Catholic. He asked me to give him convert/catechism classes but since we were friends, I referred him to Fr. Ivan Eck who was actually the pastor in the parish boundaries in which Rich lived. So Rich joined the RCIA class at Blessed Sacrament Church here in Wichita. He couldn't however, pull the trigger and actually convert (at that time). He graduated that Spring from Friends University in Wichita (maybe it was 1995) and soon moved to an Indian reservation in Arizona. I remember I gave him a statue of St. Francis of Assisi for his graduation. He told me very early on in our friendship that St. Francis was his patron saint. Rich had taken private vows of poverty and chastity just like Francis had.
Rich and I would talk on the phone from time to time when he lived on the reservation. He was going to daily Mass at the Catholic Mission and his protestant employers asked him not to go -he was teaching music at their mission school. He replied that if they would give him a daily worship service where scripture was read and explained like the Catholic Church did, then he would consider not going.All the while Rich was becoming more and more Catholic. His last album produced before he died, was full of Catholic imagery and meaning.
In the Fall of 1997, Rich was in Chicago working on his next CD and doing a lot of recording. He would try to call me and would miss me. I'd call him back and he'd be recording and not available. We missed one another close to ten times. I remember at one point Rich laughing on his message and saying, "Fr. Matt, this is the longest game of phone tag I have ever played in my life." When we finally hooked up, he said, "Fr. Matt, this may sound strange, but I HAVE TO RECEIVE THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST." I told him that it didn't sound strange at all but that it sounded wonderful. I told him that he had gone through RCIA so that all he needed to do was to go to Confession and to make a public Profession of Faith. I also remember saying, "We've talked about everything; you can go to Confession with me." And he said, "Ah, no, we haven't..." So, I said, "No problem, I'll hook you up with another priest friend." I set up an appointment for Rich to go to Confession to Fr. Paul Coakley who is now Archbishop Coakley of Oklahoma City. He was going to make his profession of Faith at the 7:00pm Mass on September 21 at the Newman Center at Wichita State University where I was chaplain for several years.
On Saturday morning Sept 20, his agent called me to tell me that he had been killed in a car wreck. I remember feeling like I had been kicked in the gut.
There were three memorial services for Rich after he died. I spoke at the one in Witchita. At that memorial service, I met his producer. The man told me that he had conducted the memorial service at a Presbyterian Church in Nashville. And during the service, he had requested for everyone to KNEEL out of respect for the Church in which Rich was about to enter! This same man also told me that Rich had told him that he was postponing his conversion a few more days until October 4 which was the feast of St. Francis!!! Rich hadn't even told ME that. This man didn't even know exactly what a feast day was but he knew that Rich was going to do it on that day...
Rich Mullins was indeed going to enter the Catholic Church. In fact, as far as I am concerned, he has! You can call it a conversion by desire.
Letter From Father Matt
Recently we contacted Father Matt McGuiness, a close friend of Rich Mullins. When we asked Father Matt if he knew anything about Rich Mullins desire to become Catholic, this was his response: