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Mourning a friend called home

A friend died last weekend. There was no warning, no time to say goodbye. There was just a simple phone call, shock and a search for understanding.

Friends and colleagues gathered and plans were made, more phone calls and tears. It is at times like these that we remind ourselves we all have only so many days under the sun. The toil and dreams are eventually silenced.

Once in a while, a voice echoes softly out of the silence, leaving behind a legacy. Monsignor Pat Leary had such a voice. I can only imagine what he was like as a young priest on the rough streets of Boston. When I met him, he was 60, energetic and bright-eyed. For nearly a decade, he ran myriad programs at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada to help those in need.

In 2003, Monsignor Pat found an agency foundering and whipped it into shape with practical thinking and panache. As chief executive officer, he knew every employee and could tell you, with a smile, something about each of them. He loved them all, and they loved him. Charming and quick-witted, he was welcomed in the halls of power and the hot streets outside his office, where the homeless lined up for evening meals. He knew the Good Book backward and forward, as well as Shakespeare and Hugo. He could give an eloquent, insightful speech that made you think for days.

What made the man remarkable, however, was the way he practiced what he had learned. He treated everyone with dignity and respect. It never mattered to him who it was or their circumstance. Monsignor Pat’s piercing gaze never looked away from the pain and suffering all around him. He saw only brothers and sisters in need.

He had long ago decided to make mankind his family. He noticed the increasing numbers of seniors riding buses downtown to have a hot meal. He saw the line of newer cars, with young single moms and many children, picking up supplies. He felt the increasing pressure to provide for them all.

Last weekend, God called him home. We can only imagine the celebration in heaven at that hour. But we who knew him are saddened and shocked. Our friend is gone, and so much work remains – work done by so few which helps so many.

Thank you for leaving Las Vegas a better place than you found it, Monsignor Pat. That is a legacy we are all grateful for, my friend.

Bob Brown is publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and secretary of the Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada Board of Trustees.

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