Sister Delia (Margaret Cecile) Leonard
“For I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the holy ones have been refreshed by you.” (Philemon 1:7)
“These words express the sentiments of all who met Sister Delia throughout her life. These words also express the life of Sister Delia who constantly used her God-given talents for others: her sisters and all those with whom and to whom she ministered through the years. When I asked some of the sisters how they would describe Sister Delia, the answer was spiritual, kind and generous,” said Sister Mary Ann Phelan in her commentary for Sister Delia Leonard, who died April 16.
The eldest of eight children of William and Margaret (Tully) Leonard, Delia Veronica Leonard was born Sept. 17, 1921, in Indianapolis. She attended Holy Cross Grade School and St. John Academy, both in Indianapolis. She graduated from high school in 1939 and worked for several years prior to entering the Congregation July 22, 1949. She received the religious name Sister Margaret Cecile. She professed first and perpetual vows Jan. 23, 1952, and 1957, respectively. Sister Delia earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and a master’s degree in education from De Paul University.
“A friend said that Sister Delia was a born ‘mother abbess.’ During her time in the novitiate she kept the sewing room humming. In second novitiate, she kept her band members in order, especially at recreation. This leadership was recognized by the Congregation as she was named superior and principal at several of her missions,” said Sister Mary Ann.
Sister Delia commenced teaching in 1952 at St. John the Baptist, Newburgh, Ind. Her other Indiana ministries included St. Mary, Richmond; and St. Joan of Arc, St. Simon and All Saints, Indianapolis. In Indianapolis, she ministered for one year at St. Anthony Parish as the rectory secretary and a tutor. Sister Delia spent several years at St. John, Robstown, Texas. For 10 years, Sister Delia ministered at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in the Financial Aid Office and the WED program. At Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Sister Delia served in a variety of ways including generalate staff, Plant Business Office and Central Business Office.
“The records say Sister Delia retired in 1992. The word retired seems strange when we hear it used about Sister Delia. We all know how hard she continued to work in the Activities Department. Whether it was preparing for a bazaar, working on Mother Theodore badges or just keeping the activities room in order, Sister Delia was there helping,” continued Sister Mary Ann.
“In her own quiet way, Sister Delia spent her life as we are called to — in works of love, mercy and justice. It made no difference to her who had a need — students, sisters, family or parishioners. Sister Delia volunteered in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Village Parish for the 18 years she lived in the Village. Many people love and remember the times she visited them when they were sick, often taking communion to the homebound, the altar boys whose cassocks she cared for, the parents that she helped when they came to make funeral arrangements or preparations for sacraments for their children. Sister Delia was a real community woman, involved with everyone,” shared Sister Mary Ann.
“Sister Delia left us, as she did all things, quietly. Some speak of death as a thief in the night, but for Sister Delia, I think of death as a reward for a life well lived. We say farewell until we are once again joined with you. Until that time, you are in our hearts and prayers as sister and friend,” said Sister Mary Ann.
The Mass of Christian Burial for Sister Delia was celebrated April 18, with her brother the Rev. Sebastian Leonard, OSB, presiding. She is survived by two brothers, William of Indianapolis, and Father Sebastian of Milford, Conn., and two sisters, Margaret Maxwell and Winifred Strack, both of Indianapolis.
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