Rich Priestly Service


The Church of New York commits back to God Msgr. Thomas P. Leonard, faithful priest for 62 years, joyful, authentic, caring human being for 90 years (CNY, Oct. 25). In turbulent times, he showed what the Gospel means for us all. 

Msgr. Leonard saw priesthood as service, a privileged opportunity to improve lives and bring people to their full personhood as he believed Jesus intends.

And thousands testify to his success:  children with HIV, the homeless, the lonely elderly, the incarcerated, young struggling marrieds, the addicted, the victims of discrimination, basically those in the margins identified by Jesus and Pope Francis as our priorities.

Msgr. Leonard walked the streets, rang doorbells, sat at countless, endless meetings, took on civic, even ecclesiastical power, to benefit his people. He held the hands of the mourning, anointed the sick, counseled the troubled, brought the Lord’s forgiveness to the errant, and did so with profound reverence for each person. There weren’t enough hours or days or years to get it all done.

But he had such a rich sense of priesthood as service. Sixty-two years of priesthood means that one has ministered to four generations, often in the same family. His enviable reputation for preaching guaranteed that his long list of commitments for funeral homilies never shortened.  

The blessing of the life of Msgr. Leonard will carry on in the thousands of lives he touched. He took Jesus seriously and imitated Him:  “I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance.” Now, God, we pray, welcome home your son, of whom You must be so proud.

Dr. Stephen J. Sweeny
Naples, Fla.
Dr. Sweeny is president emeritus of the College of New Rochelle.


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