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.
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.