NEW BRITAIN – Father Edmund S. Nadolny is promoting vocations for the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception by posting a billboard along Route 9 near Central Connecticut State University with the words, “If God calls you, call us!”
“The Daughters of Mary were instrumental in my becoming a priest,” explained Father Nadolny. “I had the sisters in grades two through nine [at Sacred Heart School], and then went to St. Thomas Seminary my sophomore year.”
He recalled that most of the 900 elementary school students went home for lunch – except for four kids, “including me because I lived too far away. So I ate in the basement of the convent. I can still taste the hotdogs, beans and carrots.”
“I had to spend the time by myself,” he continued, “because I didn’t play hopscotch and jump rope like the girls. So I went to the church and got in the habit of sitting there during the half-hour of free time before classes resumed. It helped to form me as a priest.
“So my interest in their vocations is a personal thing,” he said. “It reflects my interest in vocations, but it is also a way of thanking the sisters for what they did for me.”
The billboard – featuring four of the sisters in their brilliant blue habits and black veils – is located near a university to appeal to a younger audience.
It invites interested motorists to call 860-225-3989.
“The biggest crisis in the church today is vocations in the priesthood and religious life,” said Father Nadolny. “A few years ago, there were 165,000 sisters in the U.S.; now there are less than half of that and most are over age 65 on Social Security.”
The Congregation of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception was founded in New Britain in 1904 by Msgr. Lucian Bojnowski.
“He was just amazing, so much foresight,” said Father Nadolny. He praised the Polish-born priest, who died in 1960, for being “a man who was ahead of his time.”
In addition to founding the community of religious who located their motherhouse in New Britain, he opened schools, a hospital, an orphanage, a convalescent home, a retirement community, a park, a cemetery and even “had beehives for honey,” said Father Nadolny. “He took care of you from womb to tomb.”
The community of 22 sisters is thrilled with the billboard.
“I think the billboard is great,” said Mother Mary Jennifer Carroll, superior general. “I appreciate Father Nadolny’s support for the sisters.”
Sister Mary Janice Zdunczyk, director of development and school advancement at Sacred Heart School, expressed hope that the billboard will sow seeds.
“Young people have big hearts, are capable of making a lifelong commitment and are willing to make the sacrifices that that entails,” she said. “However, they must first be convinced that what they are committing themselves to is authentic, honest and worthwhile.
“Therefore, it is our responsibility as religious to witness to these truths” as role models for those who answer the call of Christ.
The billboard is one of 35 billboards that the 83-year-old Father Nadolny estimates he has put up over the past 40 years at an average cost of $2,500 a month, give or take.
“Messages on my other billboards read, ‘I love you Jesus, have mercy on me,’ ‘Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you,’ and ‘I love you, Jesus and Mary.’
“I’ve used both the standard billboards and the digital ones that change every eight seconds,” he said, explaining that fund-raising is conducted through his Father Nadolny Good News Fund (www.fathernadolnygoodnews.com).
“At least two million people have said ‘I love you Jesus,’” Father Nadolny boasted. “It’s an evangelization tool. I call it a sacramental. It gets them praying.
“They call me and say, ‘I started praying,’” he continued.
“I’m reaching out to people who do not go to church. And if they do, and they pray, then this encourages them to pray more.”