Father Leo Smith remembered for servant’s heart, ‘openness to life’

Father Vincent Leo Smith, a beloved priest of 55 years for the Archdiocese of Denver, died May 23. He was 82 years old.

Born to Francis and Margaret Smith on November 4, 1938 in Fort Collins, Father Smith spent his whole life in Colorado. At a young age, he and his family moved to Fairplay, where he met Michael Kerrigan, a longtime friend and eventual brother priest. Father Kerrigan delivered Father Smith’s eulogy during his funeral at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception May 28, which happened to be the same day and place which Father Smith was ordained to the priesthood, 55 years ago.

“[Father Smith] had a certain openness to life in a way that indicated his own understanding of what things were about,” Father Kerrigan said of his childhood friend.

Father Smith served at several parishes around the archdiocese, including St. Anthony Parish in Sterling, Christ the King Parish in Denver and St. Mary Parish in Aspen. His longest stints as pastor were on the Eastern Plains at St. Joseph in Akron and St. John the Evangelist in Yuma from 1975-1991, and at St. Mary in Breckenridge and Our Lady of Peace in Silverthorne from 1991-2003.

For the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, Father Smith spoke to the Denver Catholic and shared a simple but timeless piece of advice for the younger generation of priests: “Serve the people. Don’t try to be popular.” He fondly recalled visiting the sick and dying in the surrounding hospitals during his assistant pastor assignment at Christ the King in 1970, not expecting anything in return and saying that he did it simply because “it was a necessary part of your priesthood and service to the people.”

Father Smith retired from active ministry in 2003. Though he suffered from shingles during the later years of his life, those close to him say he remained cheerful and maintained the servant heart he was known for. He spent his final days at Prophet Elijah House with his fellow brother priests.

COMING UP: Colorado bishops issue letter on the Hyde Amendment and other pro-life Congressional policies

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We, the Catholic bishops of Colorado, urge Congressional Representatives to support the Hyde Amendment and the Walden Amendment. We also ask the Faithful to sign The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) petition to lawmakers encouraging them to preserve the Hyde Amendment, which can be accessed at: NoTaxpayerAbortion.com, and to contact their Congressmen and women to support the Hyde and Walden amendments.

The House Appropriations Labor and Health and Human Services subcommittee recently passed a spending bill that strips protections for pre-born children, healthcare providers,and American taxpayers by excluding pro-life provisions, including the Hyde and Weldon amendments.

The Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to fund abortion in most cases, except for rape and incest, has received bipartisan support since its inception in 1976 – including by pro-abortion administrations. Hyde is critical in saving lives. The Charlotte Lozier Institute estimates that approximately 60,000 pre-born babies are saved every year because of the Hyde Amendment.[1] This is the first time in 40 years that the Hyde Amendment was not included in the annual appropriations bill[2] and failure to include pro-life amendments will only further increase divisions in our country.

The Weldon Amendment prevents any federal programs, agencies, and state and local governments from discriminating against health care practitioners and institutions that do not provide abortion services. It ensures that pro-life individuals and organizations can enter the health care profession without fearing that the government will force them to perform a procedure that violates their well-founded convictions. It has also received bipartisan support and was added to the appropriations bill every year since it was first enacted in 2005. [3]

Congress’ recent actions endanger the lives of pre-born children and infringe on the rights of millions of Americans who do not wish to participate in the moral evil of abortion. A recent Knights of Columbus/Marist poll found that 58 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortions[4] and a 2019 Gallup poll shows that 60 percent of Americans think abortion should either be illegal or only legal in a few circumstances.[5]

The government should neither use taxpayer funds for the killing of pre-born children nor compel medical practitioners and institutions to violate their well-founded convictions. Congress must uphold these long-standing, common-sense bipartisan policies that promote a culture of life in our nation.

Human reason and science affirm that human life begins at conception. The Church objects to abortion on the moral principle that each and every human life has inherent dignity, and thus must be treated with respect due to every human person. There has never been and never will be a legitimate need to abort a baby in the womb.

It is critical that Congress continue its long-history of supporting policies such as the Hyde and Walden amendments, and that all Colorado Catholics and people of good will make their voice heard in supporting these life-affirming policies.

Sign the petition to Congress here: www.NoTaxpayerAbortion.com

Contact your Congressional Representatives here: https://cocatholicconference.org/news/

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Archbishop of Denver

Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo

Most Reverend James R. Golka
Bishop of Colorado Springs

Most Reverend Jorge Rodriguez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver