Monsignor Thomas Peter Leonard, priest of the archdiocese of New York for 62 years, died October 18th at the age of 90. His wake will be held on Tuesday, October 23rd from 2 to 8 pm at the Church of the Immaculate Conception at 53 Winter Hill Road in Tuckahoe. The funeral mass will be celebrated by Timothy Cardinal Dolan at 10:30 am on Wednesday, October 24th, also at Immaculate Conception.
Thomas was born February 18, 1928 in New York City. The child of a bookkeeper and a teacher, he grew up in the parish of Corpus Christi in Morningside Heights, Manhattan with his brother and two sisters. After attending Regis High School, he began studies at Fordham University. In 1946, he joined the United States Navy, and after serving 2 years, he returned home to graduate Fordham and enter the seminary at St. Joseph’s, Dunwoodie in Yonkers. He was ordained on June 2, 1956 and joined his first parish as priest, Immaculate Conception in Irvington.
Over his 62 years of priestly service, he had many assignments throughout the diocese of New York, including the New York Apostolate (“the Mission Band”), Catholic University in Puerto Rico, serving as Chair of the Priests Personnel Board, and Church of the Incarnation in Washington Heights, where he was first made pastor in 1977. It was there that, confronted with the reality of a growing population of infants and children with HIV and AIDS, Thomas co-founded a residence for these children. Incarnation Children’s Center has provided numerous children with medical care and a safe, loving home since 1988, and continues to serve the changing needs of the HIV+ community today. He also co-founded Broadway Housing Communities in 1983, a community-based nonprofit that seeks to respond to the challenges of homelessness and inequality.
In 1990, Thomas was assigned to be pastor of Holy Trinity parish on the Upper West Side. He presided over a vibrant and energetic community, and instituted community programs that enriched the lives of many, including a men’s shelter, a breakfast and lunch program for the homeless, AA/NA, and others. A champion of the parish music program, he led a capital project to install a world class organ, which has since come to bear his name. He led many international vacation/service trips for parishioners, travelling to Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere. Ever on the move, Thomas was in the process of planning a trip to Italy in November.
After retirement, he was asked to return to serve at St. Stephen’s of Hungary on the Upper East Side, and then at St. Malachy’s, “the Actors’ Chapel,” in Times Square.
In addition to his devotion and activism in the many communities he served, Thomas was well known for his storytelling abilities, both from the pulpit and over a meal with family or friends. His love of story and song made any time spent with him entertaining and joyful, as he always invited all to “consider yourself at home.”
Thomas is survived by his brother John, his sister-in-law Helen, his nieces and nephews Aileen, John, Catherine, Clare, Gerald, Peter, Kristen, Margaret, and Loren, their children, and his cousins, James and Catherine.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Thomas’s name to Broadway Housing Communities (http://broadwayhousing.org/donate/) or Encore Community Services (https://donatenow.networkforgood.org/116483).
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