In memoriam: Fr. Leonard Elder, SCJ, retired Holly Springs pastor

Father. Leonard Elder, SCJ

Father Leonard Elder, SCJ, died March 6, after suffering a heart attack. He was 76, and had served from 2004-2015 at Holly Springs St. Joseph Parish. For the past two years he continued to be in residence at the parish in retirement.
Born in East St. Louis, Illinois, and raised in Kentucky, Father Leonard attended the minor seminary as a teen with the intention of pursuing ordained ministry. But instead of continuing his seminary studies he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In some ways, his time of military service was an extended period of discernment. After four years with the Air force “I asked to return to the community as a religious brother.”
He professed his first vows with the Priests of the Sacred Heart in 1967.
As a religious brother, he served for nine years as a missionary in Zaire (now, the Democratic Republic of Congo). It was in Africa that he once again felt the call to ordained ministry. “God, through the voices of many people where I served, called me to pursue studies for the priesthood,” said Father Leonard.
He returned to the States and earned his M.Div. at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners, WI, in 1996. He was ordained shortly after.
Father Leonard said that what he enjoyed most about his years in Africa “were the challenges; learning new cultures, languages, and the daily struggles to overcome the lack of almost everything I was accustomed to using. However, joined with those challenges was discovering a people eager to celebrate God’s love and to share in their lives and struggles.”
Following ordination, Father Leonard served in pastoral ministry in Houston from 1996-2004, and until retirement, at St. Joseph’s parish in Holly Springs.
The Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians) is an international Catholic religious order of priests and brothers. In northern Mississippi, the order operates Sacred Heart Southern Missions, which includes parishes, schools and social outreach.