It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of a long term friend of LITTLE EDEN, Fr Joseph Leathem OMI.
Fr Leathem was an instrumental member of our organisation. During the early days, he played an important role, providing religious support to our Founders, Danny and Domitilla Hyams. Until he took ill, Fr Leathem celebrated Mass for our residents at Domitilla and Danny Hyams Home at First Friday Mass each month.
During the early years at LITTLE EDEN, Domitilla cared for Jean Marc Buret, from Italian East Africa, for four and a half months until he died. The family requested their friend, Father Leathem whom we had not met, to conduct the funeral service. That was in 1977, when Father was parish priest in Yeoville. When the second phase of the therapy buildings was planned in Edenvale, Jean Marc’s family and friends offered to finance the Jacuzzi section in gratitude for the care given to their son. They requested Father Leathem to bless the site; so he was again associated with LITTLE EDEN in 1981, seven years before his transfer to serve in the Edenvale parish.
As parish priest, Father proved a patient listener to Domitilla’s stories of joy or of sadness, always encouraging her to continue praying for guidance in the way forward; particularly via the “Harvesters”. Father’s quiet support ensured the Bishop’s approval for the erection of Our Lady of the Angels Chapel (blessed in 1993) and for the preservation there of the Blessed Sacrament. Every First Friday of the Month Father celebrated Holy Mass attended by a group of the residents and members of the public. After the gospel reading his interaction with them was always acknowledged with joy.
We take this opportunity to bid farewell to Father Leathem. May his dear soul rest in eternal peace and may God welcome his spirit and bless him for his contributions to the lives of one of His creations, people with profound intellectual disability. He will be sadly missed by residents and staff at LITTLE EDEN.