Late Friar Martyred at Altar in 1908 Honored in National Magazine


Leo Heinrichs, OFM

Thomas Kornacki, OFM, requested that HNP NOW inform the Province friar community of an article in the January/February 2023 edition of Columbia, the Knights of Columbus national magazine, about the late Leo Heinrichs (1867-1908), a Franciscan friar of Holy Name Province who, while distributing Communion to the faithful at St. Elisabeth of Hungary Church in Denver, Colorado, was fatally shot by an anarchist in 1908. The shooter had said at the time that his motivation was hatred of Catholicism.

According to the article, headlined Catholic Man of the Month and appearing on page 5 of the magazine, Thomas reports that Leo’s cause for canonization was opened in 1933 and he received the title, Servant of God. Thomas, who is on stateside vacation from Bolivia, said his brother, Ray, is a Knight and called his attention to the magazine article.

Under persecution, the Franciscan Province of St. Elisabeth of Hungary fled their monastery in Fulda, Germany, and settled at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, New Jersey. Although Leo was studying at the seminary at the time, he emigrated to the United States with the other friars, and, on Dec. 4, 1886, he entered the Franciscan novitiate at St. Bonaventure.

He was ordained to the priesthood on July 26, 1891 and served in pastoral ministry at parishes in New York and New Jersey. In April 1902, when a fire devastated most of Croghan, New York, he was sent there to rebuild the church, with the new St. Stephen’s Church dedicated on Thanksgiving Day 1903. He was later appointed pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Paterson, spending many hours tending to the sick and dying during an outbreak of smallpox. He was assigned to St. Elizabeth Parish in Denver in 1907 – and as pastor, he would distribute food every morning to the poor who gathered at the friary entrance.

Although he normally celebrated the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass, on Feb. 23, 1908 he switched Masses – he took the 6 a.m. Mass – because he had a conflicting meeting that morning. The gunman drew his revolver (after flinging the Host at Leo during Communion) and shot the beloved friar, who died minutes later on the steps of altar.