Fr. John Francis's Story
The Very Rev. John Francis. Leonard, V.F., of Newburyport and Pelham, N.H., former Pastor of St. Mary’s, St. Patrick’s and St. Francis Churches in Lynn, passed at his home in Newburyport on Saturday morning, March 18, 2017.
A Lynn native, he was educated at Sanborn, Lewis, Tracy and Breed schools prior to attending St. Mary’s Boys High School from which he graduated in 1947. In his junior year of high school his family, the late John J. and Mary (Farrell) Leonard and his siblings Charles, James, George, Virginia and Joanne, moved to Peabody.
Seminary training was at St. John’s Seminary in Brighton. He was ordained a Priest on February 2, 1955 in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Boston, by Archbishop Cushing. He was assigned to St. John’s Parish in North Chelmsford and in 1957 was reassigned to St. Patrick’s Parish in Natick.
In June of 1959 he began his Air Force Chaplainry at Lacklad Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas. Following assignments were at Patrick AFB, Florida, Hickman Air base, Hawaii, Lackland AFB again, then across the city to Randolph AFB, thence to Vietnam (1965-66) and from there to Oxnard AFB, CA then to Hahn AFB in Germany. Among his service citations are the Air Medal, Bronze Star, AF Commendation Medal with three Oak Clusters, Army and Navy Commendation, Vietnam Service Medal, Outstanding Unit Citations and the American Defense Medal. A life member of the V.F.W. Post 10722 in Pelham, N.H., he was the State Chaplain of the VFW, a position he held on nine different occasions and was the National Chaplain for the V.F.W. in 1976-77 and again in 2000-2001. He also served as Chaplain for the Malden V.F.W. Post 639 and the American Legion Post 69. Additionally, he was a member of the American Legion Post 72 in Alton, NH and the American Legion Post 100 in Pelham, N.H.
After 13 years in the Air Force, Fr. Leonard was recalled to the Archdioceses and assigned to Sacred Hearts Church in Malden in January, 1972. In 1977 he went to Immaculate Conception Parish Newburyport, as Administrator for one year and Pastor for nine years. In February of 1987, he came to Lynn as Pastor of St. Mary’s Church. From 1988 to 1992 he was the Pastor at the parishes of St. Patrick and St. Francis in Lynn; 1988 to 1999 was Vicar Forane for the Lynn and Salem vicariates; 1992 to 1999 pastor of St. James Parish in Salem; 1999 to 2005 Pastor at St. Ann’s Parish in West Newbury. In 2005 he became Senior Priest in Retirement continuing to assist with the parishes in West Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Merrimac, Amesbury and wherever needed. In his retirement he was Administrator of the Star of the Sea Parish in Salisbury for a short period and was Co-administrator at the Sacred Hearts parish in Bradford from 2011 to 2012.
Fr. Leonard was the Vicar for the Salem Vicariate, overseeing 33 parishes and was an Advocate for the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal, a speaker for the Diocesan Spiritual Life Program, a confessor/counsellor on Project Rachel, Chaplain for the Lynn Ancient Order of Hibernians, Chaplain for the Infant of Prague Guild, member of the Clergy Assoc. of Greater Lynn, and involved with all aspects of the life in his parishes and a number of civic endeavors.
He is survived by his sister, Joanne Powers of Newburyport, sister-in-law, Beatrice Leonard of Palm Springs, Calif., and Ginny Leonard of Pelham, N.H., along with 14 nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents he was predeceased by three brothers and a sister, George Leonard of Mesa, AZ, Charles Leonard of NC, James Leonard of Peabody, and Virginia Paradis of Lyme, Conn.
Fr. Leonard will Lay in State at the Immaculate Conception Church, 42 Green Street, Newburyport on Sunday, March 26, 2017 from 3 to 7 p.m. A Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday, March 27, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. at the Immaculate Conception Church, followed by interment in the Veteran’s Section of Cedar Grove Cemetery, 100 Cedar Grove Avenue, Peabody. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to V.F.W. Post 10722, 6 Main Street, Pelham, NH 03076 or to the charity of the donor’s choice. Arrangements are by Elliott, Woodworth & Rogers Family Funeral Home, 35 Green Street, Newburyport.