By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2009
Hundreds gathered inside St. Thomas the Apostle Church on Friday, Sept. 18, to remember and honor the life of Father Leo B. Cummings, a Missionary of Our Lady of LaSalette, who died at 70 in Tranquility Hospice in Austell on Sept. 14.
It was a time of both mourning and celebration as parishioners and friends lined up in the narthex of the church to sign the guestbook at the funeral Mass. As they gathered, many shared memories and stories of the priest’s life.
From older folks to young couples, Father Cummings seemed to have touched everyone he met.
Father Cummings was very much a part of the Worldwide Marriage Encounter community for more than 30 years. He was a committed chaplain to Marriage Encounter couples, both in New England and North Georgia, and also served on the national board of Marriage Encounter.
He was pastor of St. Clement Church in Calhoun from 1993 to 1998 and served as a parochial vicar in parishes staffed by LaSalette priests, including St. Ann in Marietta and St. Thomas the Apostle, where he had been in residence since 2004.
He attended his first Worldwide Marriage Encounter Weekend in 1975 in Massachusetts. During that weekend he was asked to be a presenting priest, which he joyfully accepted.
Over the years Father Cummings was heavily involved in local leadership and also in leadership at the section and national level. He worked on training weekends to help couples and priests prepare to be presenters at Marriage Encounter. He traveled to Kenya to train leaders using these same experiences.
In addition, Father Cummings was involved with a cadre team, focusing on the clarity of and training on the outline for the weekend experience. He served on the national convention committee when the Worldwide Marriage Encounter National Convention was held in Atlanta in 2001.
Jeff Cardell, a close friend, first met the priest at a Marriage Encounter Weekend in Philadelphia. Cardell was surprised when a year later Father Cummings was assigned to a parish in the Atlanta area, where Cardell and his wife, Noelle, resided.
The family became very close to the priest, who gladly accepted the role as godfather to one of Cardell’s children.
“He was there in so many important parts of our lives,” said Cardell. “My children called him ‘the family priest.’”
Father James Kuczynski, a fellow LaSalette who is pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, spoke at the funeral Mass.
“Throughout all of Father Leo’s life, he learned the lesson of the cross,” Father Kuczynski said.
An “ambassador of Christ” according to Father Kuczynski, Father Cummings “was formed by LaSalette and also lived the spirit of LaSalette.”
“There are many families that are more loving … because of Father Leo’s loving ways,” he said. “Thank you, Father Leo, for being the compassionate face of God in our midst. … Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The son of the late John and Mary Stratton Cummings, Leo Cummings was born on Feb. 3, 1939 in New York City. His family later moved to New London, Conn. He completed high school at the LaSalette Junior Seminary in Hartford, Conn., and entered the novitiate in Bloomfield on July 1, 1959. He professed his first vows on July 2, 1960.
Father Cummings completed his studies at LaSalette Seminaries in Altamont, N.Y., and Ipswich, Mass., and was ordained to the priesthood at the LaSalette Shrine in Ipswich on May 28, 1966.
His first assignment was to the LaSalette House of Studies in Washington, D.C., where he served as treasurer. A year later he was named treasurer and librarian at the LaSalette Seminary in Altamont.
Over the years, Father Cummings held varied positions in the LaSalette community, including formation director, vocations director, superior and director of pastoral planning.
In addition to his LaSalette confreres, Father Cummings is survived by two cousins, Virginia Murphy of Somerset, Mass., and George Stratton of Greensboro, N.C.
Interment was Monday, Sept. 21, at Mount St. Benedict Cemetery in Bloomfield, Conn.
Memorial donations may be given to the LaSalette Retirement Fund, 915 Maple Ave., Hartford, CT 06114.