Andrew Nargaj, OFM
1919 – 1999
Fr. Andrew Nargaj, OFM, was born on May 19, 1919, in Vukpalaj-Bajze, a village in northwest Albania. He attended Franciscan schools in Shkoder City until reception into the novitiate in 1936 at Troshani. He professed temporary vows the following year.
Fr. Andrew studied philosophy in Shkoder before crossing the Adriatic to study theology with the friars of the Venetian Province. In 1940, he made his profession of solemn vows. After receiving a dispensation from the requirement of canonical age, he was ordained priest in 1943 at the age of 24.
Having finished theological studies, Fr. Andrew did graduate work in philosophy at Sacred Heart University in Milan and then the University of Rome, which awarded him a doctorate in 1948.
By this time, the communist regime in Albania made his return home impossible, so Fr. Andrew was assigned to the catechetical institute at Grottaferrata in Italy as a substitute professor, meanwhile serving as an Albanian representative on the Pontifical Commission for Refugees. In 1951, the General Minister assigned him to the Chicago-based Croatian Commissariat of the Holy Family, in which he engaged in pastoral ministry until June 1956, when he became a member of Holy Name Province.
His handwritten autobiographical resume includes a note that for an unspecified period of 10 years, he wrote religious programs for The Voice of America and Radio Free Europe. Fr. Andrew’s first assignment in the Province was in 1956 to Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., where he taught philosophy and theology until 1968.
He then moved to St. Joseph College in North Windham, Maine, where he taught the same two subjects for another 24 years. During his time as a friar, Fr. Andrew frequently assisted during school holidays and vacations at Our Lady of Shkodra Albanian parish in Hartsdale, N.Y., thus maintaining contact with the Albanian-American community, which included many relatives.
When he retired from teaching in 1993, at age 74, he became associate pastor of that parish until his final retirement in April 1998 to St. Anthony Friary in Boston, whence he was transferred to the Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., in August 1999, where he resided for only about two weeks.
Fr. Andrew died in Holy Name Friary on Aug. 18, 1999. He was 80 years old, a professed friar for 62 years and a priest for 56 years.