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Monsignor Leo E. McFadden

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Monsignor Leo E. McFadden Obituary
Monsignor Leo E. McFadden

July 29, 1928

Feb. 9, 2013

The oldest active priest ordained for the Diocese of Reno (all of Nevada) went to God in Reno on Saturday, February 9th, 2013 at the age of 84.

Monsignor Leo Ephraim McFadden moved with his parents, Catherine and Paddy McFadden and his three siblings, John, Mary, and Frank, to Southern Nevada when the mines closed in Butte, Montana in 1931. Fortunately for them, Leo's dad got a job as a jackhammer man on the Canyons of the Colorado when Boulder Dam began construction. Leo's life can be divided into three parts: Priest of Nevada, military chaplain everywhere and journalist everywhere, but always, no matter where, he was a priest of Nevada.

His high school and college studies took him to California for his high school and college studies, and then for graduate studies and ordination to Rome, where he became a priest for Nevada in the Pope's parish church of Saint John Lateran on December 19, 1953, along with his classmates from Nevada; Charlie Rhigini of Reno and Elwood LaVoy of Sparks.

As a parish priest in Reno, he began his career in journalism under the tutelage of famed prof "Higgie" Higgenbotham at the then University of Nevada Reno. For thirteen years, along with Nevada priest Caesar Caviglia, they published a weekly Catholic newspaper for Nevada, and won awards from the Nevada State Press Association and the Catholic Press Association.

From 1969-1974 Leo was assigned to the Rome Bureau of Catholic News Service, an agency of the American Bishops. From Rome, his assignments were for many years covering the Vatican, the tribal "troubles" in Northern Ireland, Israel, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Egypt, Vietnam, Iran, and Refugee Camps along the rim of India during the Bangladesh-Palestinian war.

Leo's Military chaplain service began by enrolling as the Nevada Air National Guard (NANG) as a First Lieutenant as the first chaplain the guard ever had. He would emerge many years later as a Major General in NANG. Along the way, he became the first State National Guard Chaplain to be promoted to the ranks of Brigadier General in the United States Air Force (USAF). During his twenty-seven years as a military chaplain in Europe and across the states, he was awarded the USAF Legion of Merit, the USAF Meritorious Service Medal, and the USAF Commendation Medal. He also received the Nevada Air National Guard's Highest Award: The Nevada Distinguished Service Medal. He also received the Nevada National Guard's order of Nevada Medal for Meritorious Service from 8 July, 1958 to 11 January, 2009.

In his priestly / private life, he was also honored by being named a Fellow in the John Henry Cardinal Newman Honor Society for his many years of work with students at UNR and UNLV. The Nevada State Press Association once named him the Best Columnist in all Nevada newspapers and he was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Pope Paul VI named him a Prelate of Honor with the title of Monsignor along with Charlie Rhigini and Elwood LaVoy, all three of whom began their courses for Nevada in 1942. The Board of Regents of the Nevada University System named him a Distinguished Nevadan in 1989.

Other Honors he received: Invitator / Citation: Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton; Proclamation/Commendation: NV Senators Bible, Laxalt, Bryan, Reid, and Nevada Governors: Laxalt, O'Callaghan, Miller, Bryan, Gibbons; memo of thanks from Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta for his and to her Sisters on the Gaza Strip and his interview with her in her convent in Rome. He was also awarded a Medal from the Diocese of Reno for dedication to God and the church.

He asked to be buried in the "priests plot" in Our Mother of Sorrows in Reno with the simple inscription on his headstone: LEO E McFADDEN - A NEVADA PRIEST FOREVER. He also asked to remind his friends of his always ending signoff; as he wishes to signoff to you: CHEERS IN THE LORD.

Viewing hours are scheduled on Thursday, February 14th from 5 - 7pm at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church, 1138 Wright Street, Reno. A Scriptural Rosary will be held at 7:00 pm. Funeral Mass of the Resurrection will be held on Friday, February 15th at 10:30 am at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 100 Bishop Manogue Drive, Reno. Burial will be held at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Cemetery in Reno.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Our Lady of the Snows Building Fund, 1138 Wright Street, Reno, NV 89509.

Memories and condolences may be expressed in the Book of Memory at the website Arrangements are under the direction of Walton Funeral Home in Reno.


Published in Reno Gazette-Journal from Feb. 13 to Feb. 14, 2013
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