Fr. Leonard Elder –– missionary and pastor –– dies

Mar 6th, 2018 | By | Category: Feature Stories

Fr. Leonard with friends at his 50th jubilee in 2017

“God, through the voices of many people where I served, called me to pursue studies for the priesthood.”

-Fr. Leonard Elder, SCJ

Fr. Leonard Elder, SCJ, died March 6, following complications from a heart attack on Sunday. He was 76.

Raised in Kentucky, Fr. Leonard went to Divine Heart Seminary in Donaldson, IN, and entered the novitiate with the intention of pursuing ordained ministry.

But instead of professing his first vows, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In some ways, his time of military service was an extended period of discernment. After four years with the Air Force he said “I asked to return to the community as a religious brother.” 

He professed his first vows in 1967.

Fr. Leonard

As a brother, he served in formation, and then for nine years as a missionary in Zaire (now, the Democratic Republic of Congo). It was in Africa that Leonard once again felt the call to ordained ministry. “God, through the voices of many people where I served, called me to pursue studies for the priesthood,” he said.

He returned to the States and earned his M.Div. at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in 1996. He was ordained shortly after.

Fr. Leonard said that what he enjoyed most about his years in Africa “were the challenges; learning new cultures, languages, and the daily struggles to overcome the lack of almost everything I was accustomed to using. However, joined with those challenges was discovering a people eager to celebrate God’s love and to share in their lives and struggles.”

In 2014, he returned to Congo when SCJs from around the world came together to remember and celebrate the lives of 28 members of the Priests of the Sacred Heart who were martyred during the country’s Simba Revolution. Click here to read an article written about Fr. Leonard as he prepared to return to Africa. 

Following ordination, Fr. Leonard served in pastoral ministry at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Christ the Redeemer parishes in Houston, and at St. Joseph’s parish in Mississippi, where he continued to live in retirement while doing part-time parish ministry.

The arrangements are as follows:

Saturday, March 10

St. Joseph Church
305 E. Van Dorn Ave.
Holly Springs, MS 38635

Visitation: 9:00-10:30 a.m.
Rosary for Vocations will follow
Mass: 11:00 a.m.

A potluck dinner will follow

WISCONSIN (note that the arrangements were revised from what was originally posted):
Monday, March 12

Good Shepherd Chapel, Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake
7350 S. Lovers Lane Road
Franklin, WI 53132

Vigil: 6:30 p.m.
Mass of Christian Burial: 7:15 p.m.

A dinner is available at 5:30 p.m. at SHML.

Interment will be on Tuesday, March 13, at 11:00 a.m. at the Sacred Heart Mausoleum behind Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology / Sacred Heart Monastery

Frs. Johnny Klingler and Leonard Elder (red hat) during a celebration in Badadeka, Congo (then Zaire). Fr. Johnny was a general councilor at the time, visiting the country and Fr. Leonard was a missionary.