A priest who was a native of Waukesha, and who served as a missionary priest in Mexico and Mozambique for a combined three decades before returning to the United States for medical care, has passed away.
Fr. Paul Nadolny, S.V.D., 68, died June 12 in Techny, Illinois, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
Born in 1954, Fr. Nadolny was the second of John and Elizabeth Nadolny’s seven children. He graduated in 1977 from UW-Stevens Point with a bachelor’s degree in forestry and worked in the field before joining the Peace Corps.
After serving the Quiche people in Guatemala for three years, he felt called to the priesthood. Following his tenure with the Peace Corps in 1983, he entered the Divine Word Associates Program and professed vows the following year. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1989.
Fr. Nadolny’s first assignment was in Chiapas, Mexico, where he served indigenous people. As associate pastor of San Fernando de Guadalupe Parish in Salto de Agua, he ministered to approximately 20,000 in 70 small villages.
According to his sister, Ann Luckey, he served during very challenging times in Mexico.
“This was during times of political and social unrest, and after being in the U.S., he was denied re-entry back into Mexico to serve his mission because of that,” she said. “He was also very instrumental in the growth of the missionary presence in Mozambique, Africa, where he served. He initiated a sister parish relationship between Mozambique and St. Mary’s Parish, Waukesha.”
In the 1990s, Fr. Nadolny served in Chiapas, where he raised awareness of the government’s unjust treatment of indigenous people. When he indigenous farmers rebelled against wealthy landowners, the government blamed Catholic priests for encouraging the revolt. Although a pacifist, Fr. Nadolny received death threats.
After he was denied his Mexican Visa, Fr. Nadolny traveled to Africa in 1999, becoming a Divine Word Missionary. During his 20 years working among the Zulu, Maku and Bantu peoples, he served as a mission superior for two three-year terms. He helped build youth and family ministries, and improved health facilities and educational opportunities in the country, where just 50 percent of the population is literate.
Provincial Fr. Quang Duc Dinh, S.V.D., met Fr. Nadolny in 1987 when they were in the Theologate together.
“Fr. Nadolny devotedly served others. He was a quiet leader who spoke out when the situation called for it. As a confrere, he was loyal and dedicated,” he said. “Even when he was receiving treatment for cancer (he returned to the U.S. in 2019 for treatment), he contributed by speaking with benefactors. In his heart, he always wanted to return to Mozambique. As Pope Francis says, ‘Priests must know the smell of the sheep.’ Fr. Nadolny was that type of priest.”
After Fr. Nadolny learned he had cancer and began to feel better following his treatments, he asked Fr. Quang to allow him to return to Mozambique.
“That’s where he felt he was needed,” Fr. Quang said. “After six months in Africa, it became apparent that he would need further treatment. Although he wished to die and be buried in Mozambique, he did not want to be a burden on the diocese and the people, so he returned to the United States. He was a true servant of the people.”
Fr. Paul Nadolny is survived by four brothers (James, Joseph, David and Stephan Nadolny), two sisters (Ann Luckey and Mary Garrity), and many nieces and nephews.
Fr. Nadolny’s funeral was held Saturday, June 18, at Holy Spirit in Techny Towers, and he is buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery at Techny. A memorial Mass will take place July 22 at Fr. Nadolny’s home parish, St. Joseph Parish, 818 N. East Ave., Waukesha. He assisted the parishes in Waukesha whenever he was home on leave.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations for the missionaries in Mozambique may be sent to: Mission Office, PO Box 6099, 1835 Waukegan Road, Techny, IL 60082.