Father Richard Joseph Leisen, 92, died May 23 at St. Benedict’s Senior Community in St. Cloud. Visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 1, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud with a vigil service at 7 p.m. in the upper church. Visitation will resume at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 2, until the Mass of Christian Burial, which will be celebrated at 11 a.m., with Bishop Donald Kettler presiding. Entombment will take place in the St. Louis Parish Cemetery Mausoleum in Paynesville.
Father Leisen was born April 26, 1930, in St. Cloud, the son of Othmar and Cecelia (Moser) Leisen. He attended St. Mary’s Grade School in St. Cloud and high school and junior college at Crosier Seminary in Onamia. His college and seminary training were at St. John’s Seminary in Collegeville. Father Leisen was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Peter W. Bartholome at St. Mary’s Cathedral on June 2, 1956. He celebrated his first Mass at the cathedral on June 3, 1956.
“In second grade, after listening to a Maryknoll priest, I knew I wanted to become a priest,” Father Leisen remembered when reflecting on his (then) 65 years in ministry in the June 2021 issue of The Central Minnesota Catholic magazine. “My father died when I was in the seventh grade. My brother, Father Leo, and I became the Cathedral’s ‘fifth and sixth assistants’ because we served at Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, at devotions and ran errands for the priests.”
Father Leisen served in the following pastoral assignments: associate pastor, St. Joseph, Pierz; St. Mary’s Cathedral, St. Cloud; pastor, St. Wendelin, Luxemburg; pastor, St. Louis, Paynesville; pastor, St. Agnes, Roscoe, and St. Margaret, Lake Henry. Father Leisen retired July 1, 2009.
Among his many accomplishments, he attended graduate school at Fordham University, New York, receiving a master of social work degree. Father Leisen then served as the director of Catholic Charities, and as the director of Catholic Relief Services for the Diocese of St. Cloud (from 1968 until 2002), as residential director of the St. Cloud Children’s Home, a consultor for the diocese (from 1982 through 1997), and dean of the Cold Spring Deanery during two separate terms.
“I served on Catholic Relief Services’ national board for 10 years. My last CRS visit was near Bombay, India, where CRS staff had taught villagers how to work 15 acres of salt-filled land. We saw people rejoicing over a beautiful patch of medicinal plants,” Father Leisen recalled in the June 2021 issue of The Central Minnesota Catholic. “I celebrated Mass with Pope John Paul II in Rome and had my picture taken with him. I’ve met two other saints, St. Pope John XXIII and St. Mother Teresa (three times).”
Father Leisen is survived by his sister Mary Leisen, and brother Donald Leisen. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother Father Leo Leisen.