Priest retires after 56 years in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 13:54 30 August 2019

Father Francis Leeder of St Pancras church in Ipswich, who is retiring aged 80 Picture: LIBBY GRIGGS

Father Francis Leeder of St Pancras church in Ipswich, who is retiring aged 80 Picture: LIBBY GRIGGS


Well-known Catholic priest Father Francis Leeder, who has spent nearly 40 years at St Pancras church in Ipswich town centre, is to retire.

Father Francis Leeder in 1966 Picture:ST PANCRAS CHURCHFather Francis Leeder in 1966 Picture:ST PANCRAS CHURCH

Fr Leeder has been parish priest at St Pancras since 1981, having first come to the town in 1963.

Popularly known as Sam, he said he has lost count of the number of couples he has married and babies he baptised in that time.

Fr Leeder, aged 80, said: "I have had a great life. People have been so kind to me.

"I shall leave St Pancras with many happy memories and warm feelings as a result of the welcome and support that I have enjoyed from the parishioners. My successor is coming to a lovely parish."

You may also want to watch:

Fr Leeder said he had witnessed "many miracles of healing" as a hospital chaplain, but having to cope with the deaths of three children in a house fire meant he "never had any time for anyone who played with matches."

Fr Leeder also had to deal with an arsonist setting the church on fire on Christmas Day in 1985.

He came to St Pancras as a curate, his first permanent appointment, before moving to St John's, Norwich, now the Catholic cathedral, from 1970-73 and then Woodbridge before returning to St Pancras in 1981.

For many years Fr Leeder was an active member of the local scout movement.

He also used to sail and act as a caller for two barn dance bands in his leisure time.

He will be retiring to Melton after Fr Russell Frost succeeds him on Sunday September 1 as parish priest at St Pancras.

Parishioner Stephen Donaghy said: "Fr Leeder has been an absolute stalwart of the parish. He says that no-one is irreplacable, but he comes pretty close."

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Ipswich Star