Brother Leonard George Reeson, CSC

February 4, 1932 – September 12, 2018

Brother Leonard George ReesonThe prayers of the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross are requested for the repose of the soul of Brother Leonard George Reeson, CSC, a member of the Moreau Province of Brothers and Priests. Born in West Point Nebraska, Br. Leonard died in West Point, Nebraska, on September 12, 2018. He was in his 67th year of religious life in the Congregation.

Brother Leonard George Reeson was born on February 4, 1932, boosting the population of West Point, Nebraska to 2,688. He went to school there, received his sacraments at the local Catholic church, and he died there on September 12, 2018 at the age of 86. It might appear that, like his parents, he lived his entire life in this intimate community 60 miles southeast of Sioux City, Iowa and 75 miles northwest of Omaha, but that is not the case.

Leonard’s father, John, was a farmer. Leonard said that his father asked him at age 11 if he thought he might want to farm. Leonard replied, “Probably not.” So the family moved into town. Leonard also reported that someone once asked his father if Leonard was a good worker. His dad replied that Leonard would do exactly the job he was given, and then he’d be gone.

The Reesons lived just five blocks south of St. Mary’s, the church they faithfully attended. John and Mary (Buerman) Ressson sent Leonard and his siblings to Guardian Angels Grade and High Schools adjacent to the church. In 1950, Leonard graduated from high school, a better than average student, with “commendable success” in a variety of athletics. He could later be forced to admit that he was a “pretty good” pitcher.

He worked for a few months on his brother’s farm, and then he was gone. Leonard had decided to become a Holy Cross Brother. He entered the Juniorate program at Sacred Heart College, Watertown, Wisconsin. Then, on February 1, 1951, he was received as a novice at St. Joseph Novitiate, Rolling Prairie, Indiana. There, a year and a day later, he professed his first vows as a religious, including at this opportunity his willingness “to be sent anywhere in the world the Superior General may wish to send me.”

The first thing the community had in mind for him was to earn his undergraduate degree. He started taking courses at the University of Notre Dame, but then he was gone, pulled from studies in 1953 to teach for a year at Archbishop Hoban, a new Holy Cross high school in Akron, Ohio.

Over the next ten years, Brother Leonard was assigned to prefect, teach and coach at Holy Cross apostolates namely, Father Gibault School in Terre Haute, Indiana; Rancho San Antonio in Chatsworth, California; Holy Cross High School in San Antonio, Texas and Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. During the summers, he continued to log hours toward his degree, but, as he wrote to the Provincial, Brother John Baptist: “Whenever classes confront me, I rebel.” Classmates from Notre Dame remembered that Leonard never carried text books with him to class, only a notebook, and they speculated that he was taking that same notebook to classes at St. Edward’s University each summer. Though not studious, Leonard was a bright, curious observer of the world, and he possessed the very retentive mind that distinguishes great storytellers. By the end of July 1964, just before leaving the country, he accumulated enough academic credits to complete his BA in Education.

From the beginning of his religious life, the man from West Point had been willing to serve the mission of Holy Cross in far flung areas. His first inclination was toward East Pakistan, but when the call came for volunteers for Brazil, Brother Leonard was ready to go. After studying Portuguese at the language school in Petropolis, Pernambuco, he launched into more than a half-century of teaching in schools and ministries of the District of Brazil.

The great majority of Brother Leonard’s service took place at Colégio Dom Amado in Santarém, Para. He also taught sacrament preparation classes, assisted in various levels of the formation program and volunteered at the diocesan Pastoral do Menor project headed by Brother Ronald Hein. For two of his early years in Brazil, he taught at Colégio Notre Dame in Campinas, São Paulo. From 1984 -1989, he taught at a school of the Diocese of Petrolina, Pernambuco, and then for eight years was the director of the Postulate in Jaguaré, São Paulo. When the District began a new ministry at Nuestra Senhora Auxiliadora in Paudalho, Pernambuco, Brother Leonard was named director of the community. Finally he returned to Santarém and continued to assist at the Pastoral do Menor.

Brother Leonard was a quick study. Given good text books, he felt that he could teach any number of subjects. He had no trouble managing a class, even in his first year in Brazil when he was just learning Portuguese. Brother Leonard was at ease, the most relaxed man on the face of the earth. He was adaptable, good-humored, and able to meet anyone. He enjoyed humanity, and his students immediately felt comfortable with his easy nature, his genuine regard and interest. Drawing from personal experience, his success as a teacher came from understanding how best his students could learn.

Brother Leonard’s life exemplified the ideal of being unattached, free to serve, willing to go anywhere. He lived simply and in the present moment. He enjoyed saying that he had no driver’s license, cell phone, teaching certificate or credit card. He was happily unburdened by anything technological.

Every once in a while Brother Leonard would feel a need for an extended visit back to the United States. At these times, he would volunteer his services at a ministry of the congregation and also spend time at home with his dear family. In 1976, writing to Brother Theodosius in preparation for such a sabbatical, one of his suggested prerequisites was “being in a community that has someone my size (to borrow some clothes).” Leonard said that he always gained 25 pounds when he went home on vacation. He would purposely bring his old grey underwear, knowing that his sisters would feel sorry for him and outfit him with new clothes.

Brother Leonard greatly enjoyed and contributed to life in community, often trading memories and stories. His favorite card games were Spades and Kings Around the Corner. Any kind of sport drew his attention, and he was conversant about many teams. Though he claimed not to be fanatic about it, he was a walker of astonishing endurance. For example, while on sabbatical in New York, he would walk from the Bronx to New Rochelle, Harlem or Coney Island.

On September 12, 2018, while home on vacation in West Point, Brother Leonard was struck by a car, and suddenly he was gone to his Father’s house, his work completed in this life. His abrupt, tragic death is stunning to his family, Brothers, students and friends. His faithful commitment, gracious presence, generous service and engaging fraternity will be greatly missed. May God grant eternal rest to our Brother Leonard, and every consolation to all who knew him.

On Saturday, September 15, 2018, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, Patroness of the Congregation of Holy Cross, a Funeral Mass was celebrated for Brother Leonard in West Point at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the church of his baptism, first communion and confirmation. He is survived by two of his sisters, Loretta Schmaderer Muhs of West Point and Arlene Reeson of Cedar Bluffs.

-Br. Richard Critz, CSC


To Go Anywhere in the World

I first of all want to commend Brother Richard Critz who prepared a most loving and respectful obituary for Brother Leonard. In this, I believe he captured Leonard very well. I also thank Ir. Ronaldo Almeida for joining us all the way from Brazil; this speaks to the regard in which Brother Leonard was held there.

My first memory of Leonard was during summer school when I was an undergraduate here at St. Edward’s University. I remember seeing him in the back of one of my classes and I asked someone who that was. I was told it was Leonard Reeson who at the time was at Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. Brother Richard Daly told me that he liked coming to St. Edward’s in the summer because there were enough younger brothers around to play basketball and other sports. I remember his relief at graduating in the summer of 1964. And then he was gone.

I guess that fit with much of his life up until then. When he graduated from Guardian Angels High School in 1950 he went to work on his brother’s farm for a few months and then he was gone. He had joined the Brothers of Holy Cross and entered the postulant program at Sacred Heart College in Watertown, Wisconsin, on the same day that Brother Ronald Hein says he did. On February 1, 1951 he was received as a novice at St. Joseph Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, where he made his first profession of vows on February 2, 1952 and promised to go “anywhere in the world the Superior General may wish to send me.”

He started taking classes at the University of Notre Dame after his novitiate year, but a year and a half later there was a need at a new school in Akron, Ohio, and he was gone once again. After a year in Akron, he was gone, appearing in Terre Haute, Indiana to prefect, teach and coach. And then he was gone again, reappearing in Chatsworth, California as a prefect and coach. And then again in San Antonio, Texas, at Mountain View, California, and at Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks. In each of these places he spent only a short period of time, but, as we heard last evening, he touched peoples’ lives and touched their hearts.

Throughout these ten years he often was seen in summers sitting in the back of numerous classrooms, taking tests, listening to teachers, but others noted he was seldom with a textbook and always with a battered notebook. Despite his image as a lackadaisical student at best, he managed in the summer of 1964 to amass enough credit hours to earn a bachelor’s degree from St. Edward’s University. And then he was gone, off to Brazil.

His life after “classroom education” indicated that he was bright and curious. His schooling, however, took place in a different locale—in the world among people. And his teachers were those in his neighborhoods with whom he came into contact, and his students. And Brother Leonard experienced his world and experienced his neighborhoods to the fullest extent possible, usually by walking his world. In 1964 he journeyed to language school in Pernambuco and then began more than 50 years of teaching in schools and ministries of the District of Brazil.

The great majority of Brother Leonard’s service in Brazil took place in Santarém in the Amazon region. He taught at Colégio Dom Amando, taught sacrament preparation classes, assisted in various levels of the formation programs, and volunteered at the diocesan Pastoral do Menor project headed by Brother Ronald Hein. He also taught for two years at Colégio Notre Dame in Campinas. From 1984 through 1989, he taught at a school in the Diocese of Petrolina in Pernambuo and then for eight years was the director of the Postulancy in Jaguarè, Sao Paulo. When the District began a new ministry at Nuestra Senhora Ausiliadora in Paudalho in Pernambuco, Brother Leonard was among the first considered and was named the director of the community there.

During this time, his eyesight began really failing. Brother Ronnie asked several times for large print playing cards so that Brother Leonard could continue to play card games. His favorite card games were Spades and Kings Around the Corner. This request for playing cards was a fairly simple one, although I had learned to toss in a few t-shirts as well. Smuggling playing cards and t-shirts could not be worse than the time I was asked to smuggle a complete chain saw in pieces through customs for Brother Norbert.

Brother Leonard believed that he could teach any number of subjects given a good textbook. He had no trouble managing a class, even in his first year in Brazil when he was just learning Portuguese.

Brother Leonard was at ease, a relaxed man. He was joyful, adaptable, able to meet anyone. He enjoyed people, and his students immediately felt comfortable with his easy nature, his genuine regard and interest. He was able to connect with people. Drawing from personal experience, his success as a teacher came from understanding how best his students could learn. Brother Ronald Hein says his greatest gift was always bringing an upbeat attitude to what he was doing.

Brother Leonard’s life exemplified the ideal of being unattached, free to serve, willing to go anywhere. He tried to live simply and in the present moment. He enjoyed saying that he had no driver’s license, cell phone, or credit card. He was happily unburdened of anything technological. At the same time, he seldom carried any money to speak of. His “simple life” was fine until he asked someone to borrow clothes or invited you to lunch. Once, I was invited to travel to downtown Sao Paulo with him: that was accomplished with a one-way bus ticket and being his guest meant you paid at an establishment you probably would not have entered on your own and you would need to walk home with him.

Every once in a while Brother Leonard would feel a need for an extended visit back in the United States. At these times, he would volunteer his services at a ministry of the congregation and also spend time at home with his family. Brother Richard Critz noted that in 1976, writing to Brother Theodosius in preparation for such a sabbatical, one of his suggested prerequisites was “being in a community that has someone my size (to borrow some clothes from).” He also said he would purposely bring his old grey underwear with him to his family visit, knowing that his sisters would feel sorry for him and outfit him with new clothes.

Brother Leonard greatly enjoyed and contributed to life in community, often trading memories and stories. Any kind of sport drew his attention, and he was conversant about many teams and always supported the Brazilian national team. Though he claimed not to be fanatic about walking, he was a walker of amazing endurance. While on sabbatical in the Bronx, for example, he would walk from there to New Rochelle or to Harlem or to Coney Island. He also had great appreciation for any community meal and cooks loved serving him since he never tasted a bad meal.

I never had the chance to see Brother Leonard in Padalho. My last image of him was when he was working with a group of street children, teaching them mathematics as part of the Pastoral de Menor project in Santarem. It is difficult to think of Brother Leonard at the age he was when he died. I am amazed that his legs had not given out given the amount of walking he did throughout his life. But Brother Richard Daly pointed out to me that he was really much more athletic than most of us and that gave him a grace and stamina as a walker.

Leonard will be missed by all whose lives he touched, both in Brazil and in the United States. He did have impact on many. And he was always positive. Last week he decided to walk the Nebraska countryside as he had many times in the past. He did so, and then once again he is gone. I am sure that all his card-playing friends who went before him have already prepared the gaming table for Leonard’s arrival in heaven.

As he leaves us, the words used on the tomb of Father Jacques Dujarie are very fitting for Brother Leonard: “He went about doing good.”


Eulogy by Brother Donald Blauvelt, CSC
Br. Vincent Pieau Residence Chapel
September 22, 2018



Brother Leonard George Reeson, CSC served the Lord faithfully in the following ministries:

1953-1964

Archbishop Hoban HS, Akron, OH
Fr. Gibault School for Boys, Terre Haute, IN
Rancho San Antonio, Chatsworth, CA
St. Francis HS, Mountain View, CA
Holy Cross HS, San Antonio, TX
Notre Dame HS, Sherman Oaks, CA

1964-2018

Petrópolis, Brazil
1964-1964

Colégio Dom Amando, Santarém, PA, Brazil
1965-1966     1998-2011
1968-1977     2015-2015
1978-1983     2016-2018

Colégio Notre Dame, Campinas, SP, Brazil
1966-1968

Petrolina, PE, Brazil
1984-1989

Jaguaré, SP, Brazil
1990-1998

Paudalho, PE Brazil
2011-2015

Sabbaticals

St. Francis HS, Mountain View, CA (1977)
St. Anthony HS, Long Beach, CA (1989)
Marie Smith Urban Street Academy, Bronx, NY (2003)
St. Joseph Hall, Austin, TX (2016)