Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In Memoriam: Fr. Leo Lynch

Fr. Leo Lynch, a married priest in Saginaw, Michigan, and CITI member, passed away last week. Here is his obituary from The Saginaw News and an earlier article from National Catholic Reporter.

A Life Remembered: Leo Lynch 'stood up for others who couldn't speak up for themselves'

By Sue White
The Saginaw News
October 12, 2009, 11:11PM

“Sue,” Leo R. Lynch would start, drawing out my name, “I want to talk to you about a little something.”

Maybe it was his folk trio, The New Image, pulling together a show again for a worthy cause. Or he would share some news on his sons, Stephen and Andrew, each finding success on stages in New York City and Chicago.

Afterward, when the story came out, he’d call back again, usually leaving a message that went something like “Boy, was I surprised when I picked up the paper this morning...”

And the funny thing is, meeting with friends and family at his visitation services Monday, Oct. 12, almost everyone remembered in different ways how much he touched their lives.

Through it all, added his wife, Judy, “he was a man of God. To Leo, wherever there were people, there was church.”

Lynch died Friday, Oct. 9, after suffering a heart attack. He was 78. A funeral liturgy will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, at Snow Funeral Home, 3775 N. Center in Saginaw Township, followed by interment in Roselawn Memorial Gardens.

A Bay City native, Lynch was ordained a Catholic priest in 1956 in Rome. Throughout his ministry, he was active in fighting the issues of the day, such as racism, poverty and war.

“I think of so many things when I remember my dad, but the role he played in the civil rights and anti-war movements stands out,” Stephen Lynch said. “Even when he was playing with Al Lacki and Ralph Buggia in The New Image, the songs were always about important things in troubled times.

“I respected him for that. He stood up for others who couldn’t speak up for themselves.”

In 1969, feeling he could no longer support the church’s views on divorce and remarriage, intercommunity services and the celibacy of priests, Leo Lynch resigned from what he called his “institutional” church.

Lynch married the former Judith Hayes in 1970, and continued to minister to the faithful, celebrating Mass with the Emmanuel Catholic community. As people told his family Monday, “once a priest, always a priest.”

He had many gifts, including playing the padre in the Midland Music Society’s 1980 production of “Man of La Mancha,” one of several roles he held in community theater.

Later, he watched his sons embrace the stage and Stephen Lynch receive a Tony Award nomination for his lead role in Broadway’s “The Wedding Singer.”

But doing God’s work was definitely his greater calling, his son remembered.

“I knew him as a great father, someone I could always turn to when I needed someone,” Stephen Lynch said. “But I’ve met so many people since I’ve come home, and from what they’re telling me, it feels like he reached out to everyone in the community.

“They all had a story to tell, how he affected their lives in some way. He was always helping as many people as he could. He lived his faith.”

Married priest celebrating Mass in Saginaw: parish cites canon law, invites priest

by Tim McCarthy
National Catholic Reporter
Feb 26, 1993

SAGINAW, Mich. - The priest was married, the parish closed, but the Mass went on.

With his wife, Judy, in attendance, Father Leo Lynch, a priest in the Saginaw diocese until he opted for secular life in 1969, wore no vestments over his blue business suit and red-plaid tie. Just the same, he was priest aplenty for the St. Rita remnant gathered that icy Saturday evening in the church they said the diocese was taking away from them piece by piece.

Last August, with closure round the corner for St. Rita and four other inner-city churches, rebellious parishioners called upon Lynch to celebrate a protest Mass in a parking lot. ABC-TV's "20/20" was there, no doubt savoring the moment during the sign of peace, when Lynch went over and embraced one of his grown sons.

No such hoopla surrounded the Feb. 6 Mass, only the third Lynch has celebrated publicly since 1969, but it was a public challenge to progressive Saginaw Bisbop Kenneth Untener. Lynch said it might cost him his part-time job as choir director for another Saginaw parish.

When members of Saginaw's Save the Churches approached him last summer, armed with the canons they said allowed him to celebrate Mass, Lynch accepted but appealed to them to ask him not because canon law said so: "Ask me because Jesus said, 'Break the bread.'"

"I have no addiction to be priest (in terms of celebrating the Eucharist)," he said, doodling at the kitchen table during a recent interview in his comfortable culde-sac home. "But these people have a right to the Eucharist."

Although St. Rita closed officially Nov. 15, there has been a Mass the-re every Saturday or Sunday since then. Usually the Masses draw 40 to 50 people who say they refuse to sacrifice their close-knit community to the larger joint parish the diocese has asked them to merge with. Married or not, Lynch is welcome.

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