Father Leo

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View “In the Spotlight” – Interview of
Fr. Leo in Lancaster Newspapers
Sunday, April 15, 2012

From “The Catholic Witness”
Summer 2009

Q. When were you ordained?
A. I was ordained to the priesthood on May 18, 1991. This fell on Pentecost weekend that year, which is when I prefer to celebrate it – easier to remember Pentecost; plus I like red!
Q. Where or in what ministry do you currently serve?
A. Currently I’m pastor of Historic St. Mary’s in Lancaster.
Q. Priests are called to serve. How have you done this through your priesthood?
A. I have been blessed to serve and to try to serve as a parochial vicar at Sacred Heart of Jesus, Lancaster; St. Rose of Lima, York; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Mechanicsburg; and St. Catherine Laboure, Harrisburg. I also had the wonderful opportunity to serve as a chaplain of Trinity High School for two years and as a chaplain of Bishop McDevitt for three years. For me to serve these communities meant seeking opportunities to help others not only through the gifts and talents God gave me but more importantly through my priestly ministry of celebrating the sacraments and seeking to bring Christ to others. Sometimes I feel I did okay . . . other times I wish I had given more and taken greater risks. Ultimately as ordained priests as well as in our common priesthood, we are called to go beyond mere service; we are called to be a living sacrifice . . . to be Christ like. No doubt a bit more challenging than just serving.
Q. What do you find to be the greatest rewards of being a priest?
A. I always feel so blessed to be present and to so often actually see others experience God’s grace and love. We are present when miracles take place. We have so many wonderful opportunities. I often say that God blesses me too much . . . too many blessings . . . I’m exhausted by all the blessings happening around me. Not a bad problem to have. One thing is for sure, we are never bored!
Q. What is your fondest memory as a priest?
A. Too many to narrow down . . . the awesomeness of so many Easter Vigils and the sacraments of initiation, the tears of gratitude following a heartfelt confession, looking into the hope-filled and sometimes tear-filled eyes of a bride and groom as they exchange vows, blessing a mom and child shortly after birth, countless meals at people’s homes where we are part of the family, moments of sublime clarity at Mass as Heaven touches Earth . . . so many moments of grace.
Q. Who or what aided you in your vocation discernment?
A. When I was around five, my grandfather told me that someday I’d be a priest . . . little did I know that he told my two brothers the same thing. My parents had a huge impact. How could I not believe in the incredible love of God when they made Christ’s love so visible in their love for each other and in their love for their children and for me . . . especially when I was so difficult to love. When I was a real little kid, my grandmother told me I had to learn to say the rosary when I wanted to take her glow-in-the-dark Rosary beads. (If you charged them up and stuck them in the Mary statue holder, then the whole statue would glow . . . what kid wouldn’t want them!!!) Anyway looking back, all those little kid rosaries offered to Jesus’ Mom . . . how could I not be blessed by her. Also no one ever discouraged me. I was blessed by the love of friends and family and then the wonderful priests at both Mary Immaculate Seminary and at St. Vincent’s Seminary.
Q. How would you encourage a man who is considering a religious vocation?
A. I would let him know that God has great things in store for him no matter what vocation he ends up embracing. But I would also encourage him to grow now in holiness because all vocations, whether priest, husband or single man, require that we be men willing to lay down our lives in love for those entrusted to us. Now is the time to grow in spiritual strength so that we can learn how to do spiritual battle and learn how to defend life and all that is sacred. I would encourage him to spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and prayer. And I would ultimately encourage him to be at peace. God will always love him, and he is already an heirs to the kingdom. What a great blessing and choice: how do you want to serve the One who truly loves you, the One who wills to give you everything?
Q. Who is your favorite saint, and why?
A. I love St. Paul and St. John. I want the passion and strength of St. Paul, and I want the beautiful intimacy with Christ that is St. John’s.
Q. Is there a certain prayer or Scripture passage to which you turn, especially in difficult or challenging situations?
A. Not really. I love the Lord’s Prayer because amazingly its petitions are fulfilled at the very moment we pray it (especially when we pray it during the celebration of the Mass). I may be sad or hurting when I begin, but I have trouble not smiling in gratitude when I pray the Lord’s prayer. As for scripture passages, it seems that they are always changing for me. But in times of sadness a number of times, it has been John 14:1-7 that begins “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me . . . . ” When I’m challenged? Well as an introvert I sometimes get nervous about going in front of people; this is intensified when people are truly hurting or are angry. Mark 13:11 certainly comes to mind: “When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit.”
Q. Do you have ethnic traditions that you observe on holydays or holidays?
A. My Mom’s side of the family is Slovak, so we definitely have Oplatki at Christmas time . . . wafers that we break and share with one another at Christmas meals. Every Easter we still hide Easter baskets! Yummy. The baptismal garment that I was baptized in as well as my siblings and many of my nieces and nephews was first worn by my Dad’s Dad, then my Dad and his sister, then us. At weddings we have a bridal dance . . . this is where you put money in a purse to dance with the bride, a tradition from my Mom’s side of the family. By the way, you’re supposed to put in a lot of money, not one dollar bills. Put in hundreds . . . these newlyweds are going to need it! It’s hard for me to separate the ethnic traditions that I received growing up from the many traditions that just flowed from the Catholic culture that we were so deeply embedded in. As Goodmans, we feast at every opportunity that we can; a tradition that flows from both sides of my family and that more than adequately gives us a foretaste of the bounty of God’s kingdom.
Q. What interests or hobbies do you have?
A. I love doing optical illusions especially stage illusion like levitations. For me it’s fun to illustrate different elements of our faith through storytelling and these optical illusions. I call it Magical Revelation. I also enjoy backpacking, scuba diving and bicycling.
Q. What activities did you participate in while you were in school?
A. In high school I was in the band . . . a drummer. I also ran cross country and track, but then I was carrying almost 100 less pounds than I am now.
Q. What is your favorite vacation spot?
A. The South Rim and then hiking into the Grand Canyon is by far my favorite vacation destination. I love hiking down into the canyon and finding a spot to camp away from the crowds . . . to be with God in the midst of His awesome creation. It’s beautiful, grand, humbling, challenging, life-giving; it is simply impossible to deny God’s existence while in the canyon. So I try to go there every two or three years. This summer will be my eleventh hike in the canyon.