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Firefighter’s funeral at St. Elizabeth — ‘He rescued and cared for those in need’

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Dialog reporter

WILMINGTON – Chris Leach was a dedicated family man and firefighter who valued the relationships in his life, his uncle, Deacon Martin J. Leach, said at his funeral Mass on Sept. 30 at St. Elizabeth Church.

Brendan Leach leaves his father's funeral at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington, Sept. 30, with the firefighter's helmet that he placed on the fire truck that would carry Lt. Christopher Leach's casket. The Dialog/Mike Lang

Brendan Leach leaves his father’s funeral at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington, Sept. 30, with the firefighter’s helmet that he placed on the fire truck that would carry Lt. Christopher Leach’s casket. The Dialog/Mike Lang

Deacon Lynch, from the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., was the homilist at the Mass. Lt. Leach died Sept. 24 while battling a house fire near Canby Park in Wilmington in a case of alleged arson.

Leach was the sort of adult “that many of us would like to be,” the deacon said.

The Mass took place in a standing-room-only church, filled with family, friends, firefighters from all over Delaware and other parts of the country, and students from Salesianum, Padua and St. Ann’s, where his three children attend school.

A two-hour viewing preceded the Mass. Leach’s casket sat at the front of the church, draped in an American flag with his helmet perched on top. Long lines of people waited in cool, misty weather to pay their respects.

Bishop Malooly was the main celebrant; he was joined by several other priests and deacons. The bishop addressed the grieving firefighters at the beginning of Mass.

“You are there to rescue and take care of those in need,” Bishop Malooly said. “And certainly Chris did that over his career.”

Deacon Lynch recalled that his nephew kept laminated memorial cards from his father Mick’s funeral with him, including one with his certificate of promotion from when he was named a lieutenant. He was a gifted cook who wore out a cookbook given to him by his mother, Frannie. But his favorite role in life was that of father to Brendan, Abigail and Megan, Deacon Lynch said.

“Chris had beautiful relationships with his children,” he said.

Megan, he noted, enjoyed night fishing with her dad. Abigail wrote a letter about him for Father’s Day. Leach had it laminated and kept it in his locker. And it was not unusual to see a fire truck at Brendan’s sporting events.

“The love of his children was what he lived for,” Deacon Lynch said.

The deacon noted that in the days after the fatal fire, someone posted on Facebook that “Leach was a legend.” Another wrote about how much he had learned from his colleague.

“He taught me so much without even realizing it,” Deacon Lynch quoted the online tribute. “He was a man you could count on. He was a man you could trust.”

A lifelong friend, Bill Christopher, recalled the two of them pretending to rescue people in the Leach home when they were 5 and 6 years old. Leach and Christopher, classmates at St. Edmond’s Academy and Salesianum, swam together for Timberlane Pool and were both Boy Scouts. Leach went on to become and Eagle Scout.

Firefighting was in his blood as long as he could remember, Christopher said. He recalled once when they were swimming at a meet at Silverside Pool when Leach heard a call for the Talleyville Fire Company, located just up Silverside Road. His truck was blocked in, so Christopher agreed to drive to the firehouse. Leach hopped out of Christopher’s car wearing nothing but a Speedo and hurriedly tried to throw on a pair of jeans and a shirt while the fire truck left the station.

“He was the best friend probably anyone here ever had,” Christopher said, fighting back tears. “The only question he ever asked was, ‘When do you need me?’ He never stopped giving.”

After Mass, with pipes and drums from around the region playing, the casket was lifted on to a fire truck, and Brendan Leach hung his father’s helmet on the truck. A long procession then made its way up Cedar Street to the cemetery.

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Priest-son celebrates Justice Scalia’s funeral Mass at National Shrine

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Just as many pilgrims are passing through the Holy Door at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in this Year of Mercy, the casket bearing the body of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia entered through the door Feb. 20.

Family members follow the casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a hearse waiting outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington after his Feb. 20 funeral Mass. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Family members follow the casket of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to a hearse waiting outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington after his Feb. 20 funeral Mass. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Father Paul Scalia, the justice’s son and the main celebrant and homilist at his father’s funeral Mass, said the fact that Scalia’s casket was carried through that door of mercy was a great blessing. In his homily, he emphasized that his father was a man of faith, dedicated to his family and service to his country, a man who relied on God’s mercy and was sustained through the sacraments.

“We give thanks that Jesus brought him to new life in baptism, nourished him with the Eucharist and healed him in the confessional,” Father Scalia said in his homily. “God blessed Dad with a deep Catholic faith, the conviction that Christ’s presence and power continue in the world today through his body, the church.”

Speaking of his father’s devotion to his Catholic faith, Father Scalia said, “He loved the clarity and coherence of the church’s teachings. He treasured the church’s ceremonies, especially the beauty of her ancient worship. He trusted the power of her sacraments as the means of salvation, as Christ working within him for his salvation.”

Father Scalia, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is episcopal vicar for clergy for the diocese, where the late justice lived with his family.

The elder Scalia died Feb. 13 of natural causes while in Texas for a hunting trip. He was 79. He is survived by his wife, Maureen, and by the couple’s nine children and 36 grandchildren.

The family then sat in a front section as the casket was placed at the base of the steps leading to the main altar.

At the Mass were the eight remaining members of the U.S. Supreme Court: Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Retired Justices John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter also were present.

Other dignitaries in attendance included: Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch; former Vice President Dick Cheney; former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich; and Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cruz, currently a candidate for president, once served as a Supreme Court clerk.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, welcomed Justice Scalia’s family members and friends and the dignitaries to the Mass and acknowledged the presence of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, and Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde.

Other Catholic leaders at the Mass included Auxiliary Bishop Richard B. Higgins of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services; Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the national shrine; and John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America. Nearly 100 priests concelebrated the Mass and were joined by about 36 deacons. The congregation of 3,300 people included Catholic laypeople and women and men religious, as well as guests of many different faiths.

Leonard Leo, a friend of Justice Scalia who is executive vice president of the Federalist Society, read the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, which opened with, “The souls of the just are in the hands of God.” Justice Thomas read the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and Deacon Colin Davis, of the Diocese of Arlington, read the Gospel reading from St. Matthew.

The liturgy also reflected Scalia’s sense of humor, with both Cardinal Wuerl and Father Scalia joking about the family’s desire “for a simple parish family Mass” for the justice’s funeral, which ended up being held in the largest Catholic church in North America to accommodate the number of mourners.

Since his death, Father Scalia said in his homily, the justice had been praised by many for his intellect, his writings and speeches. “But more important to us and to him was that he was Dad. He was the father God gave us for the great adventure of family life,” Father Scalia said. “Sure, he forgot our names at times or mixed them up, but there were nine of us.”

On a serious note, he added, “He loved us, and sought to show that love, and sought to share the blessing of the faith he treasured.”

The priest also expressed thanks for his parents’ marriage, noting that “Jesus bestowed upon him 55 years of marriage to the woman he loved, a woman who could match him at every step and even hold him accountable.”

“God blessed Dad, as is well known, with a love for his country,” Father Scalia said. “He knew well what a close-run thing the founding of our nation was. And he saw in that founding, as did the founders themselves, a blessing. A blessing quickly lost when faith is banned from the public square, or when we refuse to bring it there.”

The priest said Scalia “understood that there is no conflict between loving God and loving one’s country, between one’s faith and one’s public service. Dad understood that the deeper he went in his Catholic faith, the better a citizen and a public servant he became.”

Later during the prayer of commendation, Father Scalia, prayed that God would grant the justice a merciful judgment.

As the congregation sang, “O God Beyond All Praising,” Scalia’s casket was carried down the shrine’’s center aisle, accompanied as he had been in life by his family, and then they left for his private burial ceremony.

     

Zimmermann is editor of the Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

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Beau Biden’s funeral Mass will be Saturday at St. Anthony’s in Wilmington

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Beau Biden, a former attorney general of Delaware and the oldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died May 30 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda of brain cancer. He was 46.

In a statement posted on the younger Biden’s website, the family said: “It is with broken hearts that (we) announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.”

Former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is pictured in a 2012 photo. Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, died of brain cancer May 30, less than two years after he was diagnosed with the disease. He was 46. He  (CNS photo/Jason Reed, Reuters)

Former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden is pictured in a 2012 photo. Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden, died of brain cancer May 30, less than two years after he was diagnosed with the disease. He was 46. He (CNS photo/Jason Reed, Reuters)

“The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us — especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter.”

In Wilmington, Bishop Malooly said in a June 1 statement he “was saddened to hear of Beau Biden’s passing” and offered “heartfelt condolences” to the entire Biden family.

“I pray that Our Lord will give them strength during this time of sadness and that they find consolation and hope in the knowledge that Beau is in the presence of a merciful God,” the bishop said. “Beau Biden was an outstanding husband and father and a hard-working public servant who left his mark on Delaware and our nation. … He was truly a real gentleman in every way possible. May the Lord now provide him eternal life.”

On June 2, Vice President Biden’s office announced the funeral Mass for his son will be Saturday, June 6, at 10:30 a.m. in St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington.

President Obama will deliver a eulogy in honor of Beau Biden at the Mass.

On Friday, June 5, there will be viewing at St. Anthony’s between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.

On Thursday, June 4, Beau Biden will lie in honor at Legislative Hall in Dover between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Joseph Robinette “Beau” Biden III was born Feb. 3, 1969, in Wilmington to Joe Biden and Neilia Hunter Biden. In 1972 his mother and infant sister, Naomi, were killed in an automobile accident, and he and his brother, Hunter, were seriously injured.

While he was a U.S. senator, Joe Biden would commute from Washington to Wilmington and back by train each day so he could serve in Congress and then be home as much as he could to spend time with his sons and attend their athletic events and other school activities. Joe Biden married Jill, an educator, in 1977.

In May 2010, Beau Biden suffered a mild stroke. In August 2013, he was admitted to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and diagnosed with brain cancer. A lesion was removed at that time; Biden had radiation and chemotherapy treatments, and the cancer was in remission.

On May 20 of this year, he was admitted to Walter Reed when doctors found his brain cancer had returned; he died there 10 days later.

A graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, he worked at the U.S. Justice Department in Philadelphia from 1995 to 2004. He was a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office when in 2004 he became a partner in a Wilmington law firm. He worked there for two years before being elected Delaware attorney general.

He won on a campaign that outlined his plans to deal with sex offenders, Internet predators, senior abuse and domestic abuse, and he also was a defender of the death penalty.

Biden had joined the military in 2003 as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard and was a major in the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps. His unit was activated to deploy to Iraq Oct. 3, 2008, and he spent a year on active duty there.

“Beau’s life was defined by service to others,” the family said in its statement. “As a young lawyer, he worked to establish the rule of law in war-torn Kosovo. A major in the Delaware National Guard, he was an Iraq War veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star.

“As Delaware’s attorney general, he fought for the powerless and made it his mission to protect children from abuse.”

The statement said that more than his professional accomplishments, “Beau measured himself as a husband, father, son and brother. His absolute honor made him a role model for our family. … Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.”

On behalf of the Biden family, Hallie Biden has requested that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to make a contribution in memory of Beau Biden do so to the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children at: www.beaubidenfoundation.org

 

 

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Prague archbishop recalls Havel as friend, ‘fellow prisoner’

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PRAGUE — Calling former Czech President Vaclav Havel a “friend and fellow prisoner,” the president of the Czech bishops’ conference said the entire nation owes Havel a debt of gratitude for its freedom and the new flourishing of Czech life and culture.

Archbishop Dominik Duka of Prague, who was imprisoned with Havel by the communists, asked that the bells of all Catholic churches in the Czech Republic ring at 6 p.m. Dec. 18 in memory of the former president who died that morning at the age of 75.

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