Many thanks to Beth Brewer, native of Middleville and Publisher of the The Herkimer Evening Telegram, for her kind permission to reprint staff writer Joe Parmon's September 23, 2000 story about Father Nabozny. Father Nabozny has been very gracious in admitting me into the Church to once again look at the ceiling whenever I've been home.

Paul McLaughlin
Editor, Village of Ilion History Page


By Joe Parmon, Staff Writer, Herkimer Evening Telegram

HERKIMER - The Rev. Peter Nabozny is humble when he talks about his many accomplishments during his 31 years as administrator of St. Francis de Sales Regional Catholic School.

His modesty, however, cannot hide the fact that if not for his tireless efforts through the years, the school might not even be there at all.

Nabozny, who is retiring from his post as school administrator and pastor of St. Francis de Sales Parish, faced many challenges during his time in Herkimer, but none so tough as the struggle to keep the school alive.

"Our biggest challenge was to keep the school going," said Nabozny as he reflected on his years at St. Francis in his office recently. "We're the only Catholic school left in the county. There used to be five schools, but four have closed."

"One of the things I believe he's most proud of was that he was able to get the school back on its feet in 1969 when he came and it's continued to thrive when all other Catholic schools in the area have closed," said St. Francis Principal Sister Rosalie Kelley.

Despite the prominent role he has played at the school for the past three decades, though, Nabozny is reluctant to take credit for the fact that the school is still going strong. Still, he does take credit for one thing - the fact that he gives school officials and teachers the freedom to do their jobs well, with as little interference as possible from him. He says this has been a key to the school's survival.

"I've had personnel work with me, rather than for me. I've delegated responsibility to them and they've taken it. The same with the parish council. We've worked pretty well together over the years," said Nabozny, 72.

"He has allowed me to do what I was sent to do but has always been very supportive," said Kelley. "It's been a team effort between Father Nabozny, myself and many others."

Nabozny also said having teachers and administrators stay with the school for a long period of time has been a stabilizing factor in the school's development as well.

"The teachers, the principal, the maintenance people, they have an average of 20 years with the school," said Nabozny. "They've been a steady group of people."

He credits this steady group of people with helping to bring many projects to fruition at the school and church, including the addition of a $900,000 parish center completed three years ago.

What Nabozny will miss the most when he leaves, however, is the children he helped shape over the years. He said the school has an important mission to fill and he was glad to have been a part of it.

"I'll probably miss the children the most. You get to know a lot of younger people through school, and you keep in touch with a lot of them," said Nabozny. "I think in our society young people need a good background of Christian values and they get that every day in our school. It's especially important in today's world, because there are so many problems with drugs, alcohol and peer pressure."

Nabozny said he will also greatly miss his duties as pastor, and in particular getting close to many of those in his congregation.

"After 31 years you get to know most of the families. I've done about 600 funerals, 300 to 400 weddings and 400 to 500 baptisms," said Nabozny. His long stay as pastor has also allowed him to witness many parishioners come full circle.

"I've baptized some and now I'm marrying them off," said Nabozny with a smile.

The new pastor and school administrator, Mohawk native Mark Cunningham, 53, will preach his first sermon at the church on Sunday morning. Cunningham is coming to Herkimer from Christ the King Parish in West Mere near Albany. Parishioners will hardly have a chance to miss Nabozny, though - he will be back preaching at the church the following Sunday while Cunningham settles his affairs. Nabozny will also be back to officiate a wedding in October and will also be available for substitute preaching duties in the future.

Nabozny, who worked as a teacher and guidance counselor at Notre Dame High School in Schenectady for nine years prior to coming to St. Francis, is moving to Ballston Spa.

A farewell dinner for Nabozny will be held tonight in the parish center before he moves on to enjoy his much-deserved retirement.

"He certainly has accomplished a lot in the 31 years he's been here in his very quiet and humble way," said Kelley. "I have certainly enjoyed working with him during the 26 years I've been principal here. He's going to be missed by all of us. But he's also very deserving of having a little rest."

Kelley also said that Nabozny's experience as a teacher at Catholic schools prior to coming to St. Francis helped him develop a strong commitment to keeping Catholic education an option for this area's youth.

"The message from him to all of the people in the parish has always been that having a Catholic school in this area is a big priority in his mind. His background of education in Catholic schools is a big part of this," added Kelley.

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Created 11/1/00
Copyright © 2000 Joe Parmon
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