Monsignor Leo McFadden: "A Nevada Priest Forever"

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RENO, NV - He was described as a "priest's priest", but Monsignor Leo McFadden managed to include a number of roles in 84 years of life.

McFadden died at his Reno home last Saturday.

His funeral mass was held Friday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.

It was a setting and a subject he had experienced many times.

"Whenever anybody is near death," he said in a 2005 interview, "I get with the family and we just sit down and reminisce, hold hands and share prayers."

That's what many in northern Nevada were doing Friday. A near capacity crowd filled St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church to remember and say goodbye to a man who had touched their lives.

Many in the audience had been married or baptized by McFadden or had called on him to officiate at a loved one's funeral, a role he often accepted.

Steve Mahoney remembers driving McFadden home after officiating at a friend's funeral.

"I said 'Leo you do such a wonderful job eulogizing people. Would you consider doing mine? He looked at me and said 'How are you feeling Mahoney?"

That was Leo McFadden.

When it was his turn, friends found he had planned it down to the last detail, even down to the music which included an Irish ballad and Home Means Nevada and his simple pine casket.
Funerals are a time to sum up a man's life, a difficult job in McFadden's case. His longtime friend and colleague Father James Bevan put it nicely.

"Leo McFadden had the mind of a scholar. The discipline of a general. The faith of a true believer and the soul of a poet."

All he wanted to be and all he ever was, said Father Bevan was to be a Nevada priest. His talents, however, led him through a rich and varied life.

The Air Force officer's cap and monsignor's biretta on his casket only hinted at that long resume.

He was the longtime chaplain in the Nevada Air National Guard, retiring as a two star general, but he also taught school, edited a newspaper, wrote a popular column and spent years as a working newsman for the Catholic News Service based in Rome, but covering stories as far afield as Northern Ireland, Vietnam and the Middle East

He filled each role with the same sense of humanity with which he practiced his faith.

Laid to rest at Reno's Our Lady of Sorrows Cemetery his headstone will read Leo E. McFadden, A Nevada Priest Forever."