OREM — St. Francis of Assisi Parish’s new parochial vicar is from Kottar in southern India. Father Edward Leondhas, who was born Oct. 20, 1978, comes from a large Catholic family; he has four brothers and two sisters. Fr. Leondhas grew up in the faith but did not discern his calling to the priesthood until after high school. When he knew God had spoken to him, he shared his feelings with his parish priest, who visited his family and encouraged Fr. Leondhas in his vocation.
Shortly after, he began attending St. Aloysius Seminary in Kottar, where he was a student for two years. Fr. Leondhas then earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Annamalai University. He studied philosophy and theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Chennai, India. He went on to obtain a master’s degree in English before being assigned as an associate pastor in one of the parishes in the Diocese of Kottar.
He served as pastor at two other parishes in that diocese before he was asked by his bishop to join the staff of New Life, the weekly native language magazine of the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council, which serves 21 dioceses in India. Fr. Leondhas spent six years there, first as a subeditor and then as an associate editor, before being asked by his bishop to fulfill a new assignment – to serve for several years in a diocese in the United States. It would, his bishop said, give him a broader Church experience.
Fr. Leondhas spent several months serving at his bishop’s residence waiting for his paperwork. He arrived in Utah on Jan. 13 and was assigned to St. Francis of Assisi a few days later. It is his first time in the U.S. and his first time experiencing snow.
“It’s something that’s going to take time to get acclimatized to,” because it is so different, he said with a smile. However, he is finding that the important things are universal.
In his short time at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Fr. Leondhas has been touched by the faith of the parishioners. It is the same as in his home diocese, he said.
“When I look at the faith of the people there, I don’t find any difference because the people have the same faith,” he said.
Kottar, which used to be a mission diocese, now has 100 parishes and about 50,000 people, Fr. Leondhas said. He is looking forward to working in a mission diocese.
A humble man, Fr. Leondhas is reluctant to talk about himself, but said parishioners at St. Francis will find him very kind-hearted and calm. In what little spare time he has, Fr. Leondhas likes to read. While he is here in the Diocese of Salt Lake City, he wants to learn more Spanish (he knows a little) so that he can more effectively serve the Hispanic members of the local Church.
He also hopes to grow in faith working with the parishioners of St. Francis of Assisi, he said.
After his assignment in Utah, Fr. Leondhas expects to be called back to his home diocese to build the Church there and to bring what he has learned here with him.