Monsignor Matthew G. Malnar, at the age of 85, and a priest for 54 years, died February 6, 2021, in Sparta, Wisconsin, during a brief stay at the Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in Sparta.
Matthew Malnar was born April 3, 1935, in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Matthew and Mary (née Briski) Malnar. When he was a year old his parents moved to Willard, Wisconsin and opened a tavern. He completed his early education at Willard State Graded School and then attended neighboring Greenwood High School where he graduated as valedictorian in 1952. He obtained a teaching degree from Wisconsin State College in La Crosse and attended Holy Cross Seminary for the 1954-1955 school year. He then went to St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee for eight years of college and theological education and formation. He taught at Cathedral High School in New Ulm, Minnesota for the 1963-1964 school year. Archbishop William Cousins ordained him a priest in the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee on May 28, 1966 as a priest of the Diocese of Amarillo in Texas.
Father Malnar’s first year assignment was as an Assistant at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Amarillo and also the Chaplain at the Amarillo Junior College Newman Club. He then became an Assistant at Christ the King Church in Lubbock, Texas and a full time Instructor at Christ the King High School and Chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Slaton. On January 6, 1968, he collapsed while offering Mass. He returned to Wisconsin to rest and the following year became an Assistant at Sacred Heart Church in Nekoosa and then a Chaplain at St. Benedict’s Hospital in Durand. In September 1969, Father Malnar was assigned as the Assistant at St. Anthony Parish in Athens and he often spoke fondly of this assignment under Father Rudy Geisler. Father Malnar then served as the Assistant in SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Independence for a short time and then as Assistant and Principal at St. James the Greater Parish in Eau Claire. While in Eau Claire, he was given permission from Bishop Lawrence De Falco of the Diocese of Amarillo to join the military reserves. With the shortage of priests in the military following the Vietnam War, he was called to active duty in 1972, thus beginning 20 years as an Air Force Chaplain serving at bases in Illinois, Thailand, Maine, Turkey, Minnesota, Germany, Texas, and South Dakota. While in Germany, he taught philosophy at three bases.
On October 13, 1986, Father Malnar was invested in the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem. On September 24, 1992, he was given the honorary title of Monsignor (Prelate of Honor). When he retired from the Air Force in 1992, as a Lieutenant Colonel, he enrolled in canon law studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) where he graduated Summa cum Laude on June 10, 1994. After his studies in Rome, Monsignor moved to Independence, Wisconsin. In his retirement, he assisted area priests, offered Mass at Fort McCoy in Sparta, actively traveled, and presented at conferences.
Monsignor Malnar enjoyed being a student his entire life and attended 19 colleges, universities, and seminaries both in the United States and abroad. He obtained three bachelor degrees, three master degrees, a licentiate in canon law, and a Doctorate in Theology from the International Marian Research Institute at the University of Dayton in Ohio. He was functional in seven languages and he traveled to all 50 states and to 43 countries. He served as the spiritual director on over 100 pilgrimages throughout the world, particularly to Marian shrines.
Monsignor was a member of the Schoenstatt Movement, the World Apostolate of Fatima, the Marian Movement of Priests, the Work of the Holy Angels, St. John Paul II Lay Carmelite Community in Winona, Minnesota, the American Legion, the Croatian Fraternal Union of America, the Slovenian Druzba, the Slovenian Union of America, and the Canon Law Society of America, the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem, and the Knights of Columbus.
Monsignor Malnar was preceded in death by his parents, his sisters Rose (Mike) Krultz and Delores (Robert) Zukowski, his nieces Rosanne and Annette Zukowski, and his nephews Robert and Michael Krultz. He is survived by many nieces and nephews.
A private Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Holy Family Catholic Church in Willard on Friday, February 12 at 11 o’clock with a private visitation one hour prior to the Mass. The Most Reverend William Patrick Callahan will be the main celebrant and Deacon Bryan Hilts will be the homilist. The burial will follow at the family lot at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Greenwood.
Cuddie Funeral Home in Greenwood is assisting with arrangements.
Requiescat in pace!