Cleary was ordained Priest at the Cathedral of St. Peter-in Chains,
Peterborough on May 30, 1926 and served as associate
at St. Peter the Apostle, Parry Sound 1926-1928.
He was pastor of Holy Family, Britt 1928-1933; pastor of St. Peters, Parry
pastor of St. John's, Kirkfield 1937-1955; pastor of Our Lady of Mercy,
Port Hope 1955-1979;
Administrator of St. Alphonsus, Wooler in 1979; and pastor of St. Therese,
Courtice from 1980 until his retirement on June 3, 1987.
Msgr. Cleary built eight churches and opened
fourteen schools in his career.
Cleary was appointed to the Port Hope parish January 6, 1955, and served
as pastor at Our Lady of Mercy for over 20 years during which time he saw
his parish grow to over 400 families. He served as padre to the
Royal Canadian Legion Br.30, Port Hope. A former teacher, he was
dedicated to the establishment of the separate school system in the area.
As well, he was a member of the Port Hope Ministerial Association.
During his time in
Port Hope as pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, he initiated a program of Catholic
education. The first step was the building of a school of four rooms in
1956 to accommodate one hundred and forty pupils. The Sisters of St.
Joseph were invited to take charge of the operation of the school and
Sister Alma (Geraldine Harrington) was appointed first Principal of
Mary's Elementary School. The first convent for the Sisters was a
frame house on Walton St. Later this was sold and the convent was
transferred to the present brick residence across from the church. During
the first year of the school's operation two class-rooms were added and in
1957 a seventh class-room was opened. In the following year two new
schools were built in the rural areas of the parish, St. Teresa's at Sion
and St. John Bosco's in Osaca.
In 1960 a second school was commenced in
Port Hope (St. Anthony's), a senior school for Grades Seven, Eight, Nine
and Ten. Through the instrumentality of Fr. Cleary, Separate School
Sections were organized at Welcome, Morrish and Elizabethville and thus
enabled the boards thereof to secure grants and transportation for
children to establish Separate Schools. As a result, St. Mary's
School in Port Hope had to be enlarged, this addition included two
class-rooms and a combined auditorium and gymnasium. Fr. Cleary
himself has been known for driving the kids to and from school himself for
Cleary was elected Dean of the Counties of Durham and Northumberland for a
five year term in 1969. In recognition of his long and fruitful service to
the church he was named an Honorary Chaplain of the Papal Household with
the title of Monsignor in April, 1972.
Father Leo Cleary was instrumental in the
formation and is a founding member of the Knights of Columbus, Port Hope
Council 6490, chartered on
May 7, 1973.
Leo Anthony Cleary, a much loved figure among Catholics and non-Catholics
alike, died December 20, 1997 at the age of 99.
From The Pioneers
To The Seventies, by Edgar J. Boland, May, 1976
Cobourg Daily Star,
Saturday June 20, 1998