Reverend Matthew Leonard

Reverend Matthew James Leonard

Monday, July 23rd, 1962 - Saturday, December 28th, 2019
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The Rev. Matthew James Leonard, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, passed away on December 28, 2019, in Black Mountain, North Carolina, at the age of 57. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends and parish community.

The Vigil for the Deceased will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, January 6, 2020, at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 102 Andrew Place, Swannanoa, with the Most Rev. Peter J. Jugis, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, as the celebrant.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Bishop Jugis at 2 p.m. Tuesday, January 7, 2020, at the church.

A Virginia native, Father Matt was born on July 23, 1962, to the late Cdr. Warren Leonard and Johnnie (Cummins) Leonard. He was a Tri-State Golden Gloves boxing campion during his high school years. He joined the U.S. Navy at 17, and it was there while serving his country that he heard his true calling to follow the Lord. He read and studied the Bible during his years in the Navy and credited his late father for teaching him faith through example.

After graduating in 1994 from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, he entered St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, Maryland. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Charlotte on June 6, 1998, by Bishop William G. Curlin.

During more than 20 years of priestly ministry, Father Matt served at four parishes in the Diocese of Charlotte, including St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Lenoir. He had served as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church and the Catholic Chaplain at the Charles George VA Medical Center since 2009.

His priestly ministry centered on serving the Lord and his parishioners. On the 10th anniversary of his priesthood, he told the Catholic diocese’s newspaper, “The greatest gift is to be able to know Christ better by serving people.”

With honesty, warmth and a heart as big as he was, he shared the hardships and difficulties from his youth in his homilies and interactions with his parishioners – preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ to encourage anyone who may be struggling in life. God is always present in our lives, he often said. “We all need to discern the activity of God in history, in my life, in your life. We all belong to something greater than what’s here.”

He was preceded in death by his parents and brothers, Patrick and Christopher. He is survived by his five siblings, Cynthia Ticknor, Cathleen Schmidt, Therese Merranko, Michael Leonard, and Mary Roy; and many nieces and nephews.

His family wishes to extend sincere thanks to his church family at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be given to St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church, 102 Andrew Place, Swannanoa, NC 28778.

Lord God,
you are attentive to the voice of our pleading.
Let us find in your Son
comfort in our sadness,
certainty in our doubt,
and courage to live through this hour.
Make our faith strong
through Christ our Lord.
R/. Amen.
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Service Details

  • Visitation

    Monday, January 6th, 2020 | 5:00pm
    Monday, January 6th, 2020 5:00pm
    St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church
    102 Andrew Place
    SWANNANOA, NC 28778
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    An all-night Wake/Visitation will begin on Monday, January 6th at 5:00pm in the Church.
  • Service

    Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 | 2:00pm
    Tuesday, January 7th, 2020 2:00pm
    St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church
    102 Andrew Place
    SWANNANOA, NC 28778
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    The Funeral Mass will be celebrated Tuesday, January 7th at 2:00pm.


Donations are being accepted for: St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.


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Mary Paponetti Lamb

Posted at 08:26pm
Fr.Matt was a beloved friend of me and my husband he spent most holidays and birthdays with us .He became family to us.The first Christmas in years we didn’t spend with him.The day or night before he passed I dreamt he was walking away from the church he had his priestly garb on I could only see his back.The dream meant to me his work on earth is done but he will now help us in heaven.I don’t know how long this extreme sorrow will stay with us.lost a brother the same way,I relived it again and feel as if I lost 2 brothers now.I go thru the questions such as how could I not of known,or what could I of done differently or maybe if I didn’t go see my family over Christmas.All that doesn’t matter.I’m left with a huge hole in my heart.I wish I could of got his sisters phone numbers it would make me feel close to him.Theres so many memories but I will post photos they will tell some of our story.Fly high Fr.Matt I will see you again.

Judith Watmough

Posted at 10:26am
August 10, 2010 my husband and I brought our granddaughter, Hannah, to Asheville for part of a summer break. 36 hours after we arrived back home, Hannah’s mother called and Askedthat we bring Hannah back to Chicago, as Hannah’s father had suddenly passed away. Hannahwas10 years old at the time. On August 13 Hannahand I decided to attend the noon Mass at St. MM. Father Matt came in early and asked how we both were. I explained our loss, and without hesitation, he held onto Hannah with such sincerity, and comfort, she still refers to the encounter, and will never forget his kindness. Years later she was helping me set up for the Tuesday Mass at the VA, and Father let her help me bring patients from their rooms to the service. She is experiencing another huge loss in her young life. Our family will never forget Father Leonard. When Father Leonard first came to S.MMs I asked him what ship he served on. When he told me I showed him my license plate, which shows USS Coral Sea. My husband commissioned that ship in 1947. Father Matt served on her many years later. Very small world. May you rest in the peace of the Lord, Father Matt. Thank you for being part of our lives.

Loretta Slack

Posted at 04:07pm
In all my years in the Catholic church, he was truly the first to make me feel Jesus was speaking to me through him. You will always be in our hearts and prayers. Loretta and Jessy Slack

Maldonado Family

Posted at 09:45pm
We are so grateful to have had Father Matthew as our parish’s priest for over ten years. His help and wisdom through difficult times was invaluable. We love him and will miss him dearly.

Heartfelt Sympathies Store

Posted at 07:08pm
With deepest sympathy,
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