1935 – 2017
Words of Remembrance for Brother Leo Leary, FSC
Given by Brother Colman Coogan, FSC
Mass of Christian Burial
La Salle Hall
August 3, 2017
Brothers, friends: we gather today to pay our respects to a fellow community member who lived with us here for nearly twenty years. Although quiet, never one to draw attention to himself, Leo developed deep friendships with us as he did with students while they were in his care. Sensitivity was his trademark.
Born and raised outside Richmond, Virginia, to a family having deep roots there over many generations, Brother embodied a culture, a degree of politeness to identify him as a Southerner, even to the retention of a delicate accent that betrayed his origins.
Most often Leo spoke of himself as a “country lad” raised apart from city life in a family of modest means whose survival depended on each doing his/her best toward the formation of close bonds about which he spoke frequently. He and Tom, his younger brother, learned early on to do their share of the work necessary to keep the family going. This strong but simple life constituted the core from which Brother Leo’s life was built.
Spartan as life was, his parents appreciated his ability, affording him an education at Benedictine High School, military at the time. Although the school was some distance from home, much of it, Leo traversed on foot. It was there that he learned to be a part of something Catholic and special while measuring up to the school’s high academic standards. Brilliant in his own right, it is no wonder that upon high school graduation, he entered as a cadet into Virginia Polytechnic Institute, with a major in engineering.
Having observed religious community as lived by the Benedictine monks, he felt drawn to religious community life but not as a priest. Upon inquiry he learned about the Christian Brothers who also lived in community and taught. In a single phone call to Brother Henry Laffey, recruiter at the time, Brother Henry posed only one simple admission question, “Do you want to teach?” Leo answered, “Yes”. That sealed the bargain, and in 1955 Leo soon found himself here at Ammendale.
Inherently shy by nature, Leo often commented that he somehow felt he did not quite “fit in” among his Northern Brothers. He did not share their city sophistication, nor had he gone to a Brothers’ school, and he could not identify with that mystique as spoken of by others.
Nevertheless, as the years passed, and building upon his engineering background, Leo exceled in math and the sciences. Over the years he strengthened his interest through National Science Foundation grants and studies at the University of Pennsylvania to represent a welcome addition in the many schools he served for over thirty-five years.
Although, not one to be at ease in social gatherings, Brother Leo was very engaging on an individual basis, always ready to share a bit of wisdom or a joke delivered with a broad smile and uproarious laughter. Sharing his recollections on Leo, Brother John Karl commented about their many extended conversations which revealed Leo as a deep thinker and a man of profound prayer; another saw him as one to pass unsolicited compliments for something done. Daily, he made his rounds with the staff offering a pleasantry here or a story there, always with a humorous twist. Self-taught in computer science, he easily mastered that source for research and inspiration and is remembered for sending to others email notes or birthday cards. And he was more than generous in sharing his time if one needed help with a computer problem.
An existentialist at heart, Brother Leo read widely to explore questions of profound philosophical or theological interest, writing extensively about them to others who shared his interest. He could never get enough information about the expanding universe or the Creator who set nature on its course. Leo loved God deeply and prayed to Him fervently.
Perhaps it was the intensity with which Brother lived life that brought on severe bouts of depression forcing a premature retirement from a career he dearly loved. Despite medical treatment, he spent his remaining years in the maintenance of a strictly controlled daily routine that kept him from leaving the house save for necessary appointments. In the end, as one fearful of change, God rewarded this beloved son with a brief illness, catching him off guard, warding off protracted anxiety.
Today each of us leaves here with his or her recollections of this unique but wonderful Brother. I feel confident your thoughts are uplifting, firm in the conviction that this gentle man accepted life fully as God laid it out for him, suffering and all. Now he is in full possession of the answers to the many questions he labored diligently to comprehend in life, having found their source – the God he loved and served so faithfully for sixty-two years.
Well done, good and faithful Servant. We share in your joy, with the assurance that now you are truly at peace.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Brother Leo Leary, FSC
Born Leo Burnley Leary in Richmond, VA, on January 16, 1935
Died at De La Salle Hall, Lincroft, NJ, on July 31, 2017
Entered the Ammendale, MD, Novitiate on June 18, 1955
Received the Religious Habit and Name, Brother David Leo, on September 7, 1955
Pronounced Perpetual Vows in Wyndmoor, PA, on August 17, 1961
Elkins Park, PA: scholasticate
West Catholic Boys High School: teacher
Archbishop Carroll Boys High School: teacher
West Catholic Boys High School: teacher
St. John’s College High School: teacher
La Salle Hall: convalescence
Calvert Hall College High School: teacher
Seton-La Salle High School: teacher
Bishop Walsh High School: teacher
La Salle Hall: staff
La Salle Hall: retired
De La Salle Hall: resident
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
De La Salle Hall
810 Newman Springs Road
Lincroft, NJ 07738-1608
Viewing from 1:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Thursday, August 3, 2017
La Salle Hall
6001 Ammendale Road
Beltsville, MD 20705-1202
Viewing from 9:00 am – 10:30 am
Mass of Christian Burial at 10:30 am
Burial in the Brothers’ cemetery
Lunch to follow
SUFFRAGES FOR OUR DECEASED BROTHER LEO:
District: 50 masses
De La Salle Hall community: 30 masses
Each community in the District: 1 mass
Brother Leo died suddenly at De La Salle Hall during the early morning of coronary arrest. May he rest in peace.