Fr. Molnar in his beloved Brazil

Fr. Molnar in his beloved Brazil

December 12, 2011
CHRIS MILLER
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

EDMONTON – Redemptorist Father John Molnar was hunter, fisherman and photographer. He also spent 25 years as a missionary in Brazil, sometimes defending the rights of the poor and dispossessed.

Known as a competent, energetic and dedicated priest, Molnar died peacefully in Edmonton Nov. 27. He was 86.

After his ordination in 1951, Molnar served in parishes throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan, including Moose Jaw, Athabasca, Yorkton, Edmonton and Beaverlodge.

He also taught science at Holy Redeemer College in Edmonton.

A high point of Molnar's priesthood began in October 1964 when he was appointed superior of the Redemptorist mission of Casa Nova in Brazil, with a parish consisting of 13,000 square km and 48,000 parishioners.

"We old people enjoy looking back on the past," said another Redemptorist, Father Stan Liska "He certainly liked recalling all of the good times that he spent in Brazil. That was the highlight of his life."

Born April 30, 1925, in Czechoslovakia, Molnar was proud of his Ukrainian parentage. He started his schooling in the Czechoslovakian village of Medvedovce until his parents immigrated to Canada in 1935. The family settled in a small farm near Galahad, and Molnar went to nearby Bedford school.

He later attended St. Peter's College in Muenster, Sask. Molnar took his vows with the Redemptorists in 1946, and was ordained a priest June 29, 1951.

Liska said while stationed in Grande Prairie, he developed a friendship with Molnar who was in nearby Beaverlodge at the time.

"I remember we used to go ice fishing together. He was a great hunter too. He did big game hunting with his friends, some of the parishioners up there, living on the edge of the bush," said Liska.

Over the years Molnar was intensely involved with Marriage Encounter, Cursillos, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women's League and various youth groups.

SPOKE PORTUGESE

He was a man of many talents. He spoke Portuguese, and often helped with Mass at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Edmonton.

He wrote and self-published a couple of booklets, one on family prayer, another on the Stations of the Cross, which he distributed for free to anyone who asked.

After attaining his pilot licence, Molnar was able to reach remote places in Brazil by plane. He was an avid photographer, and especially enjoyed taking close-up shots of flowers.

"Photography was his hobby. He has a lot of pictures from Brazil, a lot of nature photos," said Father Gerald Keindel, rector of the Redemptorist Community at Villa Marguerite, where Molnar spent the final 12 years of his life.

Keindel viewed Molnar as a dedicated priest. "The main things that stand out about him are his faith, his prayer life and his dedication, particularly towards the poor and the less advantaged."

ACTIVIST BARRED

The two met in the early 1960s. "He worked for close to 25 years in Brazil. He left there to recoup his health, and later wanted to return, but the Brazilian authorities wouldn't let him back in," said Keindel.

"They didn't like the way he was educating the illiterate and educating them about their political rights and so forth."

Standing up for the rights of others is something Keindel remembers fondly about his friend.

At one time in Brazil, a dam was constructed that flooded a residential area. Molnar organized the people, and ensured that the government would have to pay for their relocation.

"It was a lot of stuff like that which got him in the bad books of the government," said Keindel.

In July 1996 he retired from active ministry, and in 1999 joined the Redemptorist retirement community. His health deteriorated over the past year.

A funeral for Molnar was held Dec. 2 at the chapel of Villa Marguerite.