Long-time pastor of St. Frances Cabrini dies

| September 8, 2017 | 2 Comments

Father Leo Tibesar, known for putting Catholic social teaching into action, died Aug. 31. He was 74. His funeral Mass is 10 a.m. Sept. 11 at St. Frances Cabrini in Minneapolis, with a visitation beginning at 9.

A long-time priest and member of Father Tibesar’s 1968 ordination class said that he was soft-spoken and introverted, but by no means passive when it came to standing up for the rights of others, particularly the underprivileged and defenseless.

“The works of mercy were very, very important to him,” said retired priest Father Stephen Adrian, who first met Father Tibesar when both were attending Nazareth Hall in the 1950s and later were seminary classmates who were ordained in a class of 18 men. “Leo was the kind of guy who would take a public stand on things,” he said. homily

In the homily he preached at Father Tibesar’s Sept. 11 funeral Mass at St. Frances Cabrini, Father Adrian remembered his friend as a pro-life advocate and early supporter of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, an advocate for farm workers and activist against the Vietnam War, and for his ministry to LGBT Catholics.

Father Tibesar was a long-time pastor of St. Frances Cabrini, where he served from 1994-2011. He was also a hospital chaplain for the Fairview Riverside Medical Center from 1987-2012. Other assignments included associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima, librarian at the St. Paul Seminary, tribunal judge for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and chaplain at the University of St. Thomas.

Long-time parishioner Bob Reid described the priest as a “really gentle person” who was “an outspoken supporter of diversity and inclusivity” and “a blessing to Cabrini [parish].” Reid enjoyed monthly meals with Father Tibesar in a group that included his wife, Beverly, and four other parishioners. He noted that Father Tibesar enjoyed trying interesting food, nature photography and collecting African art.

As quiet as Father Tibesar could be, some folks may not have recognized what a powerful brain rested behind his mild-mannered exterior, said Father Adrian, who planned to highlight his classmate’s intelligence and dedication during the homily he was scheduled to preach at the funeral Mass.

“He was the kind of person you could walk into a room and not notice. There were people who made judgments about him that there really wasn’t much there,” Father Adrian said. “But, they were really very, very wrong. He was an incredibly bright man, and an incredibly active man.”

Father Adrian last saw Father Tibesar at a Mass he celebrated several weeks ago. Even though Father Tibesar’s health was failing, he “was very positive,” Father Adrian said. Father Tibesar was looking ahead to 2018, when the priests and their still-living classmates would celebrate their 50th anniversary of ordination.

“Leo was part of an active committee putting together a 50th anniversary gathering,” Father Adrian noted. “They were reserving a place at the seminary for a two-day event.”

At that gathering, Father Tibesar’s classmates will be left rekindling memories of a priest who won the respect of clergy and parishioners alike.

“I think I’ll miss most his insightfulness,” Father Adrian said. “Leo was a good summarizer. He could listen to a whole mess of stuff for hours on end, and then … within a paragraph or two, he could summarize what happened. He had an insight and an ability to bring material together, which made him a very valuable person.”



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Category: Obituaries