Leo, baptized Leo Malachy, was born on the 7th of November, 1935 at Reclain, Castlecaulfield, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Following his primary education locally he studied at St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon from 1949 to 1954, the year he entered Kiltegan. After his ordination in 1961, he went to Kenya and was appointed to Eldoret Diocese, where he worked until 1966. In that year, he was appointed to Lodwar and so began a period in his life dedicated to the betterment of a marginalised people. Turkana was then an area with very little infrastructure in the form of roads, schools, medical facilities and so on; Leo played a very important role in remedying that situation.
In 1983 a greater challenge emerged when the Society extended its mission to the Diocese of Torit in Southern Sudan. Not alone did it have the same problems as Turkana, but these were compounded by a civil war which had continued with little intermission, since independence in 1956.
Leo was with the pioneer group of six, who took up the challenge; three of them went to Kapoeta and the remaining three to Palataka. Leo found himself in the city of Juba and later in Torit. During the period 1988-1989, Torit was a town under siege from the rebel side. When the town was taken, Leo with two other priests and the Bishop of the Diocese, Paride Taban, were held in a prisoner-of-war camp for 100 days.
After his release, Leo came home for a rest and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood and bone. After treatment he returned to Sudan to serve the very people who had incarcerated him and he did so for ten more years. In June 1999, he was in such a weak state that he had to be air-lifted to Nairobi – and very reluctantly – home for treatment. For the last few months of the year - and of his life - he was cared for by the Medical Missionaries of Mary Sisters in Drogheda, some of whom had worked with him in Turkana. While undergoing treatment at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, Leo died on the 27th of January, 2000. The words of the homily at his funeral Mass encapsulate his life – 'Leo believed that life was full of the goodness and kindness of the Lord'. I think that is what we all sensed in him. He is buried in Reclain, Co Tyrone.
Place of Rest: Reclain, Co Tyrone