Lutheran pastors, several dozen Catholic priests and hundreds of family and friends joined Bishop Malooly in celebrating the life of Diocese of Wilmington priest Father Leonard R. Klein during his funeral Mass at Cathedral of St. Peter on Dec. 13.
The congregation filled to capacity the cathedral where Father Klein served as rector.
“Just looking out and seeing the numbers and diversity of the people here,” Bishop Malooly said during the service, “just shows how Leonard touched people. It brings back really good images.
Klein was also pastor of Saint Patrick and Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception parishes in Wilmington. He died Dec. 4 at age 74. He was the first and only married man to be ordained to the priesthood for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
“He was first and foremost a genuine person,” said the homilist, Father Richard Ballard of Greenville, S.C., a friend and another former Lutheran pastor. “What you saw was what you got. He was a rock, steadfast and utterly reliable.
“He was kind, compassionate and unfailingly pastoral in the best sense of the word. So many people have said ‘He’s the best pastor I’ve ever had.’”
Ordained to the Lutheran ministry in 1972, he served as associate pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church and pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, both in New York, and senior pastor at Christ Lutheran Church in York, Pa. He served on numerous boards and committees and was known for his writing and lectures during his 30 years as a Lutheran minister.
Father Klein leaves behind his wife of 50 years, Christa, children Maria Hollenbeck and Nicholas Strauss-Klein; their spouses Joel and Jennifer; and seven grandchildren, Madeleine, Aidan, Clara, Henry, Aryeh, Zelda and Eve, siblings Layne Klein (Beth), Lynn Klein, Lori Brewer (Kevin) and numerous beloved nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Renate, in 2016.
Father Klein and Christa were received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2003. Given permission by the Vatican, he was accepted as a seminarian for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington and began his studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, MD. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli, on April 1, 2006, at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Wilmington.
“It is truly right and just to thank God, including on this day,” said son-in-law Joel Hollenbeck in remarks before the start of the funeral Mass.
“He spent his lifetime tending to the suffering of others. He would want us to pray, reflect and live as God created us to be. He would want you to pray for him on his journey to the fullness of God’s life.”
Father Klein served as chaplain to the Saint Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington and was a member of the board of Saint Francis Hospital in Wilmington. A staunch supporter of pro-life causes and advocate for the vulnerable, he served as director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities and chair of the Respect Life Committee for the Diocese of Wilmington for many years.
Burial will take place at the Forks Church Cemetery, 4500 Sullivan Trail, Stockertown, Pa., on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 11 a.m.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, PO Box 2030, Wilmington, Del., 19899-2030; to First Things, 9 E. 40th St., 10th Floor, New York, NY 10016 or firstthings.com; or to the Renate Fund at A-T Children’s Project, 5300 W. Hillsboro Blvd, Suite 105, Coconut Creek, Fla., 33073 or atcp.org.