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Paynesville Press - June 20, 2001

Father Leisen to observe anniversary

By Linda Stelling

Father Leisen Father Richard Leisen will celebrate the 45th anniversary of his ordination on Sunday, June 24, from 1 to 4 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church, Paynesville.

A modest man, Father Leisen, 71, thought he could quietly get by without observing his anniversary, which took place on June 2, but his parish had other ideas.

Father Leisen was ordained at his home parish of St. Mary's Cathedral in St. Cloud on June 2, 1956.

"I knew when I was in the third grade that I wanted to be a priest," Father Leisen said. "I never changed my mind," he added.

Growing up, Father Leisen spent a lot of time at St. Mary's Cathedral, close to the priests. His first assignment as an associate was at St. Mary's. He knew the building well as he and his brother had done janitorial work there from the time they were in high school.

Following his ordination, he also served in Pierz, before attending Fordham University where he earned a master's degree in social work. "Those early years were easy and seemingly without a lot of responsibility," he said.

Upon graduation, Father Leisen became director of Catholic Charities, a position he held for 22 years. He also headed up Catholic Relief Services, which dealt with foreign missions. "Half of my priesthood has been spent doing social work," said Father Leisen.

His most memorable and most complicated task was the resettlement of refugees, primarily Southeast Asians, in the St. Cloud Diocese. "The refugees were the most courageous people I have ever met," Father Leisen told his parish in a recent newsletter.

When he started in 1965, Catholic Charities had a budget of $360,000. By 1987, he was overseeing a budget of over $6 million to help the needy.

Returning to parish work, he served two years at Luxemburg before coming to Paynesville, where he has served for 14 years.

"I hope I can stay on for another five years," he said. People are friendly and kind, Paynesville is a good place to be and the years here have been smooth, he added.

In his leisure time, Father Leisen enjoys playing golf and cross country skiing.

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