September 3, 2021

Father Joseph Mader served in seminaries, archdiocesan parishes

By Sean Gallagher

Father Joseph MaderFather Joseph Mader, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, died on Aug. 23 in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 81.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Sept. 1 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant of the liturgy. Retired Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf was the homilist.

Burial followed in the priests’ circle at Calvary Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Father Mader, who struggled with health challenges throughout his priestly life and ministry, was known primarily for the many years he spent in the formation of future priests in seminaries. He also ministered in archdiocesan parishes.

Father Michael O’Mara, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Indianapolis, received spiritual direction from Father Mader when he was a college seminarian at Saint Meinrad.

“He enjoyed guiding seminarians who were not only discerning priesthood and who they were, but also searching for God,” said Father O’Mara.

That including searching for God amid life’s tragedies, such as when a brother of Father O’Mara died in a car accident.

“Father Joe walked beside me, helping me to find the peace that one loses when confronted with a violent death,” Father O’Mara recalled.

He shared with Father Mader that he was struggling with depression in the wake of his brother’s death. So was his grandmother. When her doctor told her to take life one day at a time, she responded that, at times, she could only take it a half hour at a time. Father O’Mara shared that story with Father Mader.

“With that, Father Joe got up from his chair, found a 3 x 5 index card and wrote the fraction ‘1/2’ on it and said, ‘Follow your grandmother’s advice. She understands,’ ” said Father O’Mara.

Father Mader knew how to cope with the challenges of life because he experienced health challenges from the start of his priestly ministry, recalled his longtime friend, retired Msgr. Mark Svarczkopf.

“Even when he was ordained, he really couldn’t preach at his first Mass because, just before his ordination, he was struck with Bell’s palsy and half of his face was paralyzed,” said Msgr. Svarczkopf. “So, even from the day he was ordained, there was always something wrong with Father Joe.”

Despite bearing the cross of poor health for so long, Father Mader did not let that get him down.

“He was always joyful,” said Msgr. Svarczkopf. “He was in pain, and you knew it. But he never got depressed, mean or anything like that.”

Because of his health challenges, Father Mader received good care for many years through the help of many people. This, Msgr. Svarczkopf said, is part of his friend’s legacy that people can learn from.

“He experienced the tenderness and the care of the archbishops, the priests and the laity,” Msgr. Svarczkopf said. “The archdiocese as an organization takes really good care of its sick and retired priests. We need to take care of each other.”

Joseph Eugene Mader was born on May 27, 1940, in Indianapolis to the late Sylvester and Marie Mader. He was baptized at St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis and later received the sacrament of confirmation at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, also in Indianapolis.

Father Mader became an archdiocesan seminarian as a high school student, receiving priestly formation at the former Saint Meinrad High School in St. Meinrad.

He later received priestly formation at the former Saint Meinrad College in St. Meinrad, at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in St. Louis and at the former St. Maur Seminary in Indianapolis.

Father Mader was ordained a priest by Archbishop Paul C. Schulte on May 7, 1967, in the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad. He celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving on May 14, 1967, at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Indianapolis.

Father Mader’s first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis and as a full-time instructor at the former Latin School of Indianapolis, the archdiocese’s high school seminary at the time.

During his ministry at Holy Rosary and the Latin School, Father Mader also completed graduate work in mathematics at the University of Notre Dame in northern Indiana, earning a master’s degree in the field.

At the closure of the Latin School in 1978, Father Mader became a member of the faculty of Saint Meinrad College, where he served until 1983.

He then ministered as the associate pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Bloomington from 1983-84. From 1984-88, Father Mader served as pastor of St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville.

Father Mader’s final pastoral assignment was as associate pastor from 1988-93 of St. Michael Parish

in Cannelton, St. Paul Parish in Tell City and St. Pius V Parish in Troy.

In 1993, he was granted a medical leave of absence, living for two years at St. Lawrence Parish in Indianapolis. Two years later, he began living in parishes in Florida and was granted an early retirement because of his health in 1999.

Memorial contributions can be sent to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, 1400 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46202, or to Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, 200 Hill Drive, St. Meinrad, IN 47577. †

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