In 1985, two years after he had been ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and while he was serving as associate pastor at St. John Nepomuk, Racine, then-Fr. David Malloy was selected to study at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy in Rome to prepare for work in the Vatican Diplomatic Service.
His brother, Fr. Frank Malloy, recalled that the priest wasn’t eager to pack his bags.
“He was reluctant to leave the diocese,” he said. Asked what changed his brother’s mind, Fr. Frank Malloy replied, “Rome gave him a reporting date.”
On March 20 of this year, Rome gave him another reporting date when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Rockford, for which he will be ordained on Monday, May 14.
As he prepares for the episcopacy, he does so with a prayerful heart.
“It is not only beyond me, but beyond anyone to be a successor to the Apostles,” Bishop Malloy told your Catholic Herald April 23. “You trust that God’s grace and a lot of help will be coming your way. It’s very humbling.”
Much is said about the environment in which the seeds of vocations to the priesthood will find root: Prayerful, church-going family where faith is taught by example. Parish priests whose holiness and service make an impression. Young David Malloy grew up in that environment.
“We were very much focused on the parish and on church,” Bishop Malloy said. “(After) we made our first Communion, we regularly went to Mass every morning.”
Geography might have had something to do with it, too. Mary and the late David Malloy and their six children – the bishop is the oldest of the five boys – lived a block and a half from Christ King Parish, Milwaukee, where there were four daily Masses. The parish also offered Mother of Perpetual Help devotions and eucharistic adoration on First Friday.
“You do that for your whole youth, and it has an impact on your formation and grace,” he said. “It had a lot to do with it, but not in some overt way.”
While his family was “very much focused on the parish and church,” Bishop Malloy said that commitment had to be seen in the context of an array of activities in their lives. He ran track and participated in other sports at the parish elementary school.
“It wasn’t like we were living in an abbey,” he said of is Catholic upbringing. “It was just part of life.”
Fr. Richard Talaska, who served as an associate pastor at Christ King from 1969 to 1975, recalled the oldest son and second of the six children in the Malloy family.
“He stood out as a serious student,” the senior priest said. “He had a great personality, open and joking, but he was a serious student.”
The future bishop is grateful for the opportunities Wauwatosa East High School provided to him, including a place where he could live his faith.
“There was a lot of good reinforcement there,” he said. “Some of the teachers were particularly good people devoted to good values, shared across the board, Catholic or not.”
It may also have been a place where he learned skills that would help him years later in church diplomatic work.
“You also learned to defend yourself against the influences that were there,” he said. “And sometimes you were able to work with others to articulate something good when there were values to be challenged.”
The starting point guard for the Red Raiders basketball team in his senior year, Bishop Malloy and his fellow Catholics brought their faith into the locker room.
“We would routinely ask the coach to stay outside after the game and only the players would put their hands together and say the Our Father,” he said. “Win, lose, or draw which, for us, was mostly lose.”
His senior year, the team lost 13 straight games. Yet, the player nicknamed “Deacon” by his teammates – another teammate was “Padre” – didn’t lose his cool or alter his vocabulary.
“There wasn’t an awful lot of blue language coming out of his mouth,” Fr. Malloy, a priest of the Milwaukee Archdiocese who is a chaplain at the VA Medical Center in Bay Pines, Fla., told your Catholic Herald April 30.
The priest noted that when his brother was serving at his first parish, St. John Nepomuk, Racine, he coached basketball, including a future Marquette star and NBA player, Jim McIlvaine.
“He once told me that David helped him with his footwork when he was in eighth grade,” Fr. Malloy said. “I always thought David would have made an excellent basketball coach a la John Wooden or Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski).”
Bishop Malloy attended UW-Madison for a year before transferring to Marquette, where he was involved in the Catholic Information Center.
“I think the environment in Madison was a little more open than he was looking for,” Fr. Malloy said. “At any rate, he used to head off to Mass at St. Paul’s every morning. After a few weeks, the priest noticed that David was there earlier than he was, so he gave David a key to let himself in.”
As part of the Vatican Diplomatic Service, Bishop Malloy served in Pakistan, Syria and the papal household. In 2001, he was appointed assistant general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; five years later, he became secretary.
In that role, he worked alongside and learned from dozens of bishops.
“The one thing that always seems to stand out is the prayer life they have, and the manner in which everything they have to do at those high levels of responsibility came together with their prayer life,” Bishop Malloy said.
Like the first bishops, Bishop Malloy is a fisherman.
“He’d come home from Rome or Washington and be out every night on the pontoon boat seeing what he could catch,” Fr. Malloy said. “Mostly it’s been northern pike and big mouth bass on a catch-and-release basis. He likes to fish like other guys like to golf.”