Leo McFadden 1928-2013

When Leo McFadden was a boy, a bishop came to the McFadden home to recruit his brother for the priesthood. His mother said, “Leo will make a much better priest.”

When St. Albert’s church and school were located across the street from the university, McFadden told that story to one of his parishioners over her kitchen table. He was then in his first decade as a Reno priest. He would become a familiar figure over many kitchen tables of local Catholic families who are mourning him this week.

Born in Portland and raised in Las Vegas—his father worked on the Boulder Dam project—he began serving as a Nevada priest just two years after his ordination, continuing for nearly six decades, minus a period in the early 1970s when he worked in Rome.

McFadden performed innumerable baptisms, weddings, funerals and other ceremonies for a couple of generations of local Catholics. Many who knew him as children in the 1950s and 1960s continued calling him “Father McFadden” until the end of his life, though he had long since become a monsignor.

In February 1957, the Reno Gazette-Journal carried a photo of McFadden ministering in the street to victims of a gas explosion in downtown Reno that killed two and injured 49. The newspaper also carried his column for many years, written in free verse, all lower case. McFadden was a prolific writer and edited the now-defunct Nevada Register, the newspaper of the Diocese of Reno, as the Catholic territory that encompassed the entire state was then known.