Patrick Cullen was born on the 13th of September, 1926, to Walter and Brigid (née Fitzpatrick) Cullen of Mullahoran, Co Cavan. One of seven children, Paddy attended Kilcogy National School from 1932 to 1938 and Cloneen National School from 1938 to 1940. He spent the next five years in St Mel’s College, Longford where he captained the football team that won the Leinster championship.
He came to Kiltegan in 1945 and did the spiritual year in Humewood. He studied philosophy and theology in St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan and was ordained on Easter Sunday, the 13th of April, 1952, in Killamoat by Bishop J.W. Heffernan CSSp.
Paddy was appointed to join the Society’s new mission in the Kenya Highlands. He was sent to Eldoret as assistant to Fr Joe Murray. The following May he was given faculties to hear confessions in Swahili and to hear 'the nun’s confessions at the convent'. In June he was transferred to Tartar as Fr-in-charge with Leo Staples as his assistant. In 1956, he took over from Bill Dunne as Education Secretary, a government post with responsibility for all Catholic Education in the diocese.
Over the next ten years Paddy travelled an area the size of Ireland in his Volkswagen Beetle equipped with several spare wheels, and is said to have been the first Society priest to set foot in Turkana. Paddy was a man of great influence in the diocese. Around that time, the priests stationed outside the towns were in dire straits for money for their upkeep and could not always rely on the diocese to provide it. Paddy is given great credit for negotiating with the Society for a monthly allowance that enabled these men to continue their work without constant worry. In 1966 the Kenya Government abolished the post of Education Secretary. Paddy was appointed to Holy Rosary Parish, Nakuru where he continued to deal with diocesan education matters as well as pastoral issues.
In 1969, while on home leave, Paddy was appointed to the USA to do promotion work and was based in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. In 1972, he was seconded to the development organisation, CODEL (Coordination in Development) and worked out of its New York office for the next seven years. This involved leaving Cliffside Park for his office at six-thirty each morning. He was also required to make regular trips to ten African countries. Meanwhile he continued to appeal in churches for the Society whenever possible.
He was the one who brought the Society magazine, Africa, to the USA and the one who took care of its distribution to subscribers throughout the States. In 1980, he was appointed Superior of the Society house in Saratoga, California with responsibility for the promotion programme in the western States. He held that post for two terms. In 1988 he drove across the country with all his worldly possessions to take up residence again in Cliffside Park. In 1989, Paddy took on parish ministry in Paterson Diocese, New Jersey and lived and worked in St Clare’s Parish and later in St Andrew the Apostle, both in Clifton.
Paddy retired in October, 1997, and lived close to the Society house in Cliffside Park. He helped out in various parishes and did church appeals for the Society when called upon. He joined the Cliffside community for the midday meal. He made an annual trip to Ireland and visited Kenya for his golden jubilee.
Paddy Cullen was a strong and confident man who made a success of everything he undertook. His educational work in Kenya was a case in point. Paddy worked with colonial officials to get Catholic education off the ground. He mixed with them socially. He invited them for a meal and a game of bridge in the mission and developed good relations to the benefit of his education work. The outcome was a network of primary schools and a cadre of Catholic teachers who laid a firm foundation for the faith. He is still remembered by older teachers in the Rift Valley Province and can be counted, with them, among the pioneers of the church in that area.
In the USA, his primary concern was the Society and its missionary task. He was nothing if not resourceful and to get Africa to its readers he bought a car-trailer and travelled every month to the port to collect his cargo. One can only imagine the haggling and buttering-up needed to get through customs and to get his precious magazines on to his trailer and home without a haulage licence. But Paddy was up for it and for whatever it took to promote the Society and its mission.
In 2008 Paddy came back to Kiltegan in very poor health. Shortly afterwards he was admitted to the Nursing Unit where he remained until his death which occurred on the 19th of November, 2014.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan