A priest for six decades, Monsignor Paul Nadal has struggled at times with his faith, has run six Comrades and hopes the Catholic clergy will be allowed to marry so they do not have to endure the lonely life he has. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad / ANA
Durban - For 60 years, Monsignor Paul Nadal has relied on his faith in God to overcome moments of loneliness and doubt.

Nadal, 87, told the Independent on Saturday he was in good physical health; but revealed he had difficulty with his beliefs, personal thinking and reasoning.

“I have questions, we all have questions. I’ve struggled and struggled, but with the help of my Christian family, I’ve been able to keep my faith strong. I also turn to God to help me remain rooted in my faith,” he said.

After 60 years as a priest, Nadal lives in a retirement home.

He said not having a family of his own had made life very lonely, and he hoped Pope Francis would allow priests to marry and have families. He added that the pope had already allowed some married men in regions of South America to be ordained, but he understood it would be a long process to see through.

“I don’t think Pope Francis will succeed with this, but at least he has planted the seed,” he said.

Nadal recently celebrated his 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood at a special mass in St Joseph’s Florida Road. Many friends travelled long distances for the mass. Father Pierre Lavoipierre, who has served as a priest for 55 years, preached the homily, reflecting on how Nadal had been “good news” for the church and for Durban for so many years and still had much good news to share.

Nadal’s journey to the priesthood began while a schoolboy at St Henry’s Marist College before going on to study The Order of Brotherhood.

“My mother told me the brother’s life was a very hard life; a tough life.

“She told me I’d stay in a confined area, in a school, meet no one and only see my parents when they visit and I’d never be allowed out.

“Then she asked, have I ever thought of being a priest, and then I said no,” he joked.

Nadal pursued a degree in law at the University of Pretoria, but later realised law was not his calling.

It was thereafter that he met a priest who suggested he took the path of priesthood; he has never looked back. He now holds a doctorate in philosophy.

He said his best time as a priest was working with Archbishop Denis Hurley which was stimulating, mentally and physically.

His highlight was running the Comrades Marathon six times.

“As a person you go through bad times as well, the biggest of them being lonely and not having a family of your own. I hope Pope Francis can do something about it, and allow priests to marry.”

Asked about controversial activities in some other churches, such as pastors allegedly sleeping with female congregants, advising congregants to drink bleach and spraying them with insect spray, Nadal said there was still good in the church and that it still had a major contribution to make to the world.

Independent On Saturday