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Services set for Father Leonard Klein, rector, pastor, pro-life leader in Diocese of Wilmington

Father Leonard Klein
The annual award dinner of the St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington on May 19 included, from left, Bishop Malooly, award winner Father Leonard Klein and Sara Bussiere, society president.

Father Leonard Roy Klein, rector of the Cathedral of Saint Peter, and pastor of Saint Patrick and Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception parishes in Wilmington died in the early hours of Wednesday, Dec. 4, in the presence of his wife and children, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 74 years old.

Father Leonard Klein

The first and only married man to be ordained to the priesthood for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, 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.

Born on Aug.  4, 1945 in Easton, Pa., Father Klein was raised on his family’s dairy farm. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in religious studies from Yale College, a master of divinity from Yale Divinity School and a master of sacred theology from Christ Seminary-Seminex. Ordained to the Lutheran ministry in 1972, he served as associate pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church (New York City), pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church (Long Island City, NY), and senior pastor at Christ Lutheran Church (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 Leonard Klein and Bishop Malooly during the Cathedral of St. Peter 200 Anniversary Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter, Sunday, April 10, 2016.

Father Klein and his wife 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.

Father Klein’s early assignments were as a member of the diocesan Family Life Bureau, associate pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, and a hospital chaplain. In 2011 he was made pastor of Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception and Saint Patrick Churches. In 2013, he was assigned as rector of the Cathedral of Saint Peter, in addition to the other two parishes. 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. He was deeply committed to the liturgy and known for the power and clarity of his homilies.

The family is deeply grateful for all the prayers and support during his long illness. Father Klein lived in joyful gratitude for the blessings of his life. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, and an avid reader of theology and history. He enjoyed gardening, music, cooking and travel. In each of his roles – as a priest, family member and friend – he is remembered for his moral clarity, steadfastness, wisdom and kindness.

A viewing will take place at the McCrery and Harra Funeral Home, 3924 Concord Pike, Wilmington, on Thursday, Dec. 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. Funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon on Friday, Dec. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Peter, 500 N West St., Wilmington. Preceding the Mass there will be a period of visitation from 10 to 11:45 a.m. at the Cathedral. 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.

For online condolences visit: www.mccreryandharra.com