Fr. Leon Flaherty, C.PP.S., 88, died on September 29, 2023, at 10:20 a.m., in the infirmary of St. Charles Center, Carthagena, Ohio. He had been in failing health.
He was born on July 10, 1935, in Superior, Wisc., to Michael and Emily (Jaques) Flaherty. He entered the Congregation in 1949 at Brunnerdale, the Congregation’s former minor seminary near Canton, Ohio.
Fr. Flaherty was ordained on June 10, 1961, at St. Charles.
After his ordination, Fr. Flaherty served as an instructor at Brunnerdale, the Congregation’s high school seminary near Canton, Ohio. In 1970, he was named director of vocations and later became director of formation. He was also the chaplain for firefighters in Jackson Township of Stark County, Ohio.
In 1978, Fr. Flaherty was named to the retreat team at the retreat center in Maria Stein, Ohio, where he also participated in Marriage Encounter weekends, a ministry he found very fulfilling. He was also known for offering spiritual direction that was life-giving and prayerful.
During that time, he was elected to the leadership of the Congregation. In 1982, he was elected vice provincial director of the Cincinnati Province. He served on the general curia of the worldwide congregation from 1983–89, living in Rome during that time.
Fr. Flaherty then continued his retreat and renewal ministry, moving to Columbus, Ohio, in 1989. In 2000, he returned to parish ministry in the Diocese of Superior. From 2000-01, he was the associate pastor at St. Anthony’s parish in Superior; then from 2001-02 he was the associate pastor at Queen of the Universe parish in Woodruff, Wis. Fr. Flaherty served as the associate pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior from 2002-09. During that time, he was also active in the Twin Ports Ministry to Seafarers, an interdenominational service to the sailors working on the Great Lakes freighters. He also ministered from 2009-12 as senior associate pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Whiting, Ind.
Fr. Flaherty returned to Superior in 2012 in his retirement, but he enthusiastically entered into ministry at the Cathedral of Christ the King there, presiding at Masses and assisting in many other ways. There he was honored with the Lumen Christi Award by the Cathedral School for his outstanding priestly service in the U.S. and Italy, but especially in Superior.
His ministry in Superior continued for 11 years until September 2022, when poor health caused Fr. Flaherty to move to St. Charles where his Community could care for him. The two goodbye parties for him hosted by the Cathedral staff were full of well-wishers who were sorry to see him go, but grateful for his ministry.
Fr. Flaherty had a pastoral approach to people, reaching out with his heart in all his many ministries. Retreatants and parishioners would often ask him, after he preached, “How did you know that was what I needed to hear?” His response was that before he would preach, he asked God to let the people hear what they needed to hear.
With a Missionary spirit, he went where he was called and he truly loved his Community, but part of his heart was always along the shores of Lake Superior, and with his family. When he drove north toward Superior, he would reach a point where he could see the hills of Duluth, and he would know he was home. To return there to minister near the end of his life meant a great deal to him, and he continued to serve the people of God as long as he could.
Survivors include his brother, Thomas (Phyllis) Flaherty, Superior; and his sister, Carol Zowin; several nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a brother-in-law, Thomas Zowin.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, October 3, at St. Charles Center, with Fr. Andrew O’Reilly, C.PP.S., presiding. Fr. Jerome Stack, C.PP.S., will be the homilist. Burial will follow in the Community cemetery.
Viewing will be held at St. Charles from 10:30 a.m. until Mass begins.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Missionaries of the Precious Blood United States Province.