Priest retires after 56 years in Ipswich
PUBLISHED: 13:54 30 August 2019
Well-known Catholic priest Father Francis Leeder, who has spent nearly 40 years at St Pancras church in Ipswich town centre, is to retire.
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."
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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."