A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fr William Grant Leeming, s.m.

Fr Bill Leeming sm

Fr Bill Leeming sm

What  follows is part of the eulogy delivered at Bill’s funeral by  Br. Matthew Morris sm  at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on 25 June 2014.

Bill had a well-defined path in life, which included family, many friends, companions and fellow travellers. Bill also knew that in the presence of God and his Holy Mother there was fullness of joy and it would be fair to say that even in this life there were pleasures forevermore.

I met Bill many years ago, soon after I joined the Society of Mary, at an annual retreat. In those days smoking was a common habit and I remember seeing this dapper tidy little priest darting around with an enormous Meerschaum pipe protruding out ahead of him. A health issue later in life encouraged him to abandon this habit.

I caught up with Bill in the mid eighties when I moved to St Patrick’s College from Hastings. He had finished with life in the classroom and had been appointed Superior of the community and Bursar for both the community and the school.

St Patrick’s, in those days, was a complex community with a wide range of Marist personalities and ages. It was no easy task having both these roles and I am sure that Bill, who took his responsibilities seriously, had a few sleepless nights as a result of this.

At the end of 1990 the winds of change were blowing through the College Community and Marists were on the move. This included Bill to Sacred Heart Parish Hastings as assistant parish priest. At the end of 1992 I was reappointed to St Pat’s and in May of 1993 five of us formed the Kemp Street Community nearby. I was to be reunited with Bill in community once more in 1994 when he was appointed to secretarial work at the Nunciature and took up residence at Kemp Street.

It is probably fair to say that Bill was more comfortable with the role of poacher than gamekeeper and I was to see the true qualities of the man unencumbered by the burden of responsibility involved in leading a large community. We were to share community at Kemp Street for nearly 17 years.

Bill quickly became an integral part of the community and adapted seamlessly to the less institutional way of life that was Kemp Street. Bill was again reunited with his old friend Barney Doherty who was part of the Kemp St Community. Despite many contrasts of personality, the two were great buddies and they made for a joyful, fun-filled and prayerful community.

Having been in colleges for a good part of his Marist life, Bill followed the fortunes of St Patrick’s and was interested in those of us teaching there and the work that we did. His own ministry involving secretarial work at the Nunciature. It required a high degree of discretion and Bill was never less than professional in keeping matters confidential.

One of Bill’s great interests was playing cards. He was a member of the local Bridge Club in Miramar. Bill was also a member of a group of diocesan priests who played cards weekly. Bill was very diligent with his prayer life. A man of contrasts. Outward going and sociable, he also valued the quiet interior life of prayer and reflection. This was the source from where he drew his energy. Bill lived for almost 17 years in the smallest of the Kemp St. rooms. He was tidy and orderly. He lived quite simply, but he also knew how to celebrate.

Loyalty was one of Bill’s great qualities. He had a great regard for tradition and family values. He was very fond of his sister Kath and her husband Phil. Bill had a few people he gave counsel to, but like his work at the Nunciture, it was discreet and one could say Marist-like.

As the years moved on Bill slowed down somewhat, just as time creeps up on us all. In aging I saw in Bill all his best qualities coming to the fore. There was prayerfulness, gentleness and a care and compassion for others. Sometimes when people grow old they can become impatient or irritable through the frustration of growing old and the trials aging can bring. In his last times at Kemp Street, when his health was faltering, I saw none of these traits in Bill. Instead I saw an acceptance borne out by a life lived in prayer, bolstered by trust and faith in Jesus and his Mother. Bill had been an active man both in his work and in his relationship with others. It seemed to me that he been given also, the grace to let go of these things in his last times.

At the end of every day, as he rests from his labours, every good man asks himself,

“Have I made a success of my life? Have I left the world a better place for having lived in it?” Ever a loyal priest, servant and a Marist, this is the way that William Grant Leeming lived his life.

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