Early life and education
Thomas Mulledy was born on August 12, 1794 in Romney, Virginia (today part of West Virginia) to Irish immigrant parents. His father, also named Thomas Mulledy,[a] was a poor farmer. Before receiving any formal education, he and his brother, Samuel Mulledy, taught at the Romney Academy in their hometown. He later enrolled as a student at Georgetown College in Washington, D.C. on December 14, 1813, having to pay for his own education, like his brother. However, he left the school in February 1815 in order to travel with nine others to White Marsh, Maryland, where they entered the Society of Jesus. He returned to teach at Georgetown in 1817. While there, he contracted a disease that was unknown to the physicians of the time, and he feared death. In his debilitated state, he received the viaticum, and was thereafter restored to health, a turn of events that some considered miraculous. He was in 1818 appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to the board of trustees for the town of Romney.
In 1820, he was sent to study philosophy in Rome; on the voyage, he was accompanied by Charles Constantine Pise, James Ryder, and George Fenwick. In Rome, he studied at the Pontificio Collegio Urbano de Propaganda Fide for two years, and subsequently spent another two years as a tutor to the crown prince of Naples. Alongside his priestly studies, he was exposed to literature and science, and became regarded as among the most eminent scholars of Italian language and literature in the United States. Mulledy was ordained a priest in Rome in 1825, and remained in Italy until 1828. It was not until December 1827 that the Society raised enough money to pay for his and others' return to the United States, and that the Jesuit Superior General was satisfied that the Jesuits had regained a footing in the United States after their suppression. He then returned to Georgetown and was made the prefect of studies.