Father Leonard R. Klein died in 2019, but his memory lives on through his words. The late priest delivered hundreds of homilies in 13 years as a Catholic priest, and now 65 of them are being made available in a book edited by his widow, Christa.
“A Grain of Wheat” will be available this November.
The couple did not discuss a project like this during his illness.
“I found a folder with some notes on his computer,” Christa Klein said.
After she delved into the homilies, she began picking out which ones would go into the 372-page book. They are organized by where they fall on the church calendar, with a section on solemnities and feasts. Another section is for occasional sermons, including five Father Klein delivered at weddings, his first as a Catholic priest, his daughter Renate’s funeral Mass, and one from the wake service for Father Richard John Neuhaus. Christa Klein said they didn’t need much editing.
Tracking down references Father Klein made during his homilies has been one of the stages of getting “A Grain of Wheat” into print. Each one has end notes. Christa Klein said her husband could make references from St. Augustine to the late singer Tom Petty.
“He was well-read theologically and culturally very aware. He always saw preaching to give people solid, substantial spiritual food but always very accessible,” she said.
Father Klein was a native of Easton, Pa., and ordained a Lutheran minister in 1972. He performed many duties in that capacity, including leading congregations in New York and Pennsylvania before entering the Catholic Church in 2003. He was ordained to the priesthood in 2006 by the late Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli.
He was an associate pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Brandywine Hundred and a hospital chaplain, as well as a member of the Family Life Bureau in his early years as a priest. In 2011, he became pastor of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick parishes in Wilmington, and he was named rector of St. Peter Cathedral two years later.
“When he first came, he was not in a parish as a pastor. In fact, the Vatican only more recently under Benedict would allow that for married priests,” Christa Klein said.
He was also a board member at St. Francis Hospital, and director of the Office for Pro-Life Activities and chair of the Respect Life Committee for the diocese.
Christa Klein began the book project two years ago.
“It was a very good project for the pandemic, and for a new widow,” she said. “I was hearing his voice.
“What you have to imagine is a profound 50-year friendship. It’s precious.”
The foreword to “A Grain of Wheat” was written by Catholic commentator George Weigel. He and Father Klein knew each other for years. They met through Father Neuhaus, who, like Father Klein, was a Lutheran pastor before converting to Catholicism in 1990. He was the founder of the journal First Things, where Weigel is a longtime featured author.
In his introduction, Weigel writes that Father Klein was “a shining witness to what it means to be a good shepherd of the flock.
“He nourished his people with the word of God and the grace of the sacraments. He could do so because he was himself a radically converted Christian whose ministry grew out of a life of prayer and study. Leonard Klein’s distinctive life experience is not easily replicable. But his example, as a biblically literate Christian and a minister of the Gospel, could well be emulated by many,” he wrote.
Father Klein was chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society of the Diocese of Wilmington, a group of Catholic lawyers and others in the legal profession. That group is sponsoring publication of the book.
Anyone interested in buying a book can email firstname.lastname@example.org.