Securing Freedom

October 3-9, 2002

Father Paul Madej ( pictured below on the right) receives Bronze Star for military service overseas
By Howie Mansfield

During the last year, increased military presence overseas has sent loved ones from Central New York to the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan to participate in Operation Enduring Freedom. These troops risk their lives to fight the war on terrorism across the world. Among the military personnel was Father Paul Madej, a priest from the Syracuse Diocese and an Army chaplain. Father Madej was the sole Catholic priest with the troops in the region. He was assigned to the seventh battalion of the 101st Airborne Division.

“During Operation Enduring Freedom, I was the Catholic priest assigned to the entire deployed force, including the military service members from the coalition governments in Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.,” Father Madej said.

Father Madej, a native of Utica, attended and graduated from Holy Trinity Grammar School in 1978 and Notre Dame High School in 1982. He earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and English from Le Moyne College in 1986, and degree in theology from the Catholic University in Louvain, Belgium, in 1989. Father Madej was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Joseph O’Keefe on Dec. 8, 1990 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.

For his efforts helping the men involved in Operation Enduring Freedom, Father Madej was awarded the Bronze Star. The award cited Father Madej’s service to the military operation, stating that his“technical and tactical proficiency and dedication to duty … in a combat zone under the most extreme circumstances greatly contributed to the success of Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Father Madej shared a few thoughts about his experience with the troops during both Operation Anaconda and Operation Enduring Freedom. “The fact that not one soldier out of the thousands in combat lacked courage,” was most impressive to Father Madej. “In the midst of the mortar rounds, gun fire and bombs, every soldier displayed courage and marched against the enemy, resulting in great victories.” Father Madej also talked about a Special Forces soldier, who died in his arms, after a battle in the region. It is in times such as these when chaplains are called to perform Last Rites and console the friends of the fallen soldier.

“He is doing God’s work. He’s one of God’s disciples,” Thaddeus added. “He’s right there where they need him.”

Father Madej was parochial vicar at St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale after ordination. While at St. Margaret’s, Father Madej joined the Army reserves and was in active duty for four years until entering full-time active duty in 1995. His military assignments include serving Marines in Okinawa, Japan, serving sailors at Commander Amphibious Group Two, Little Creek, Va., Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., and at the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va. where he ministered to sailors from the USS Cole.

Father Madej is currently ministering to the second battalion of the 320th Field Artillery of the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Father Madej’s parents, Thaddeus and Helen Madej, reflected on their son’s vocation and their pride for him in his military service.

“He has always wanted to be a priest. He’s very happy. He can get through to anybody because he is so warm and compassionate,” Helen said. “He was born for that vocation. That was his calling and he enjoys it.”

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