Reader's Retrospective: Michael Leach

This story appears in the Reader's Retrospective feature series. View the full series.

by Julie Gunter

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Editor's note: Introducing NCRonline's blog series "Reader's Retrospective": A special project that commemorates NCR's 50th anniversary by telling the stories of readers who have been faithfully subscribing to the National Catholic Reporter since its beginning. ​Read about the project's origins here.​​​

Barred from watching television, listening to the radio, or reading newspapers, St. Mary of the Lake seminarian Michael Leach kept up with goings-on beyond Mundelein, Ill., through the few Catholic magazines allowed: America, Commonweal and The Critic. "When NCR appeared, I jumped at the chance," he said. "It was alive. Always has been."

Leach's early life was shaped by the community of St. Andrew Parish near in his home and the unconditional love of his "Grandma Lou." A child of divorce, Leach would spend his first years as a newly ordained priest working at Maryville Academy, a home for dependent children. Then, in 1968 at a bar in Greenwich Village, N.Y., he fell in love with Vickie.

After leaving the priesthood in order to marry, Leach entered "the vineyard of religious publishing," where he has "been able to explore interesting ideas about life with creative people."

Describing NCR as a companion on the way (he writes and edits its Soul Seeing column), Leach has also befriended and sometimes partnered with other writers and editors on its pages. Editor-at-large of Orbis Books after serving as publisher from 1997-2008, Leach has edited more than 2,000 books. He has also authored his own books, such as Why Stay Catholic?, I Like Being Catholic, The People's Catechism and I Like Being Married.

Leach is now semiretired in order to care for Vickie, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's in 2004, though he remains keenly attuned to future projects. Currently planning a book series -- with Franciscan Sr. Ilia Delio as general editor -- titled Catholicity in an Evolving Universe, Leach spends much of his time alongside his wife's temporary hospital bed in the family room of their Greenwich, Conn., home. He "lives on her clock, the present moment, the only time you can be grateful and happy."

He acknowledges that loss and pain (their shared memories, her broken hip) have a place in his life, too. "But I'm lucky," he is quick to point out, with conviction. "We've had a good life. Still are. God helps us see the good that nothing can erase."

A version of this story appeared in the March 13-26, 2015 print issue under the headline: NCR a reader's retrospective: Michael Leach.

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