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Published: Wednesday, 6/27/2007

Bishop Blair to meet with parishioners of St. Rose

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Leyland Leyland
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Bishop Leonard Blair has agreed to meet with three members of St. Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg who are asking him to keep the Rev. Thomas Leyland as their pastor.

But the meeting won't be held until Monday - the day after Father Leyland is scheduled to retire.

"His timing is unfortunate because it's the day after Father Leyland's last day," said Joan Foster, one of the parishioners who will meet with the bishop. "But some of the others are delighted. They feel it's our one chance to talk to him."

Bishop Blair has appointed the Rev. David Nuss as St. Rose's new pastor, and the Rev. Marvin Borger, chancellor and vicar general of the diocese, as part-time associate pastor, effective Monday, the day of the meeting.

Mrs. Foster, Gary Forquer, and James Schaller delivered a petition with more than 1,500 signatures to the bishop's office Monday, asking him to reconsider his plan to replace Father Leyland. They also requested an open meeting today with the bishop for all of Father Leyland's supporters .

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo diocese, said yesterday that there is "no change in the status of Father Leyland's retirement and Father's Nuss' appointment as pastor" and that "nothing will be postponed."

Bishop Blair agreed to meet with the trio because "he wants the representatives to understand that he is well aware of their concerns," Ms. Oberski said.

"He wants them to understand that he is not removing him as any kind of negative reflection on Father Leyland. He is, in fact, not renewing his term, which expired two years ago. Father Leyland was offered the opportunity to accept a new assignment. He chose to retire."

The petition describes Father Leyland as "a strong and faithful spiritual leader to his congregation" and a priest who "has served the Toledo diocese with devotion for over 40 years. He deserves, as do we his parishioners, a fair, just, and open hearing into the reasons that Bishop Blair is terminating Father Leyland's pastorate at St. Rose Parish."

A native of Perrysburg, Father Leyland, 69, went to St. Rose Elementary School and has been pastor of the 8,100-member parish since 1999. Father Leyland has said he wanted to continue serving at St. Rose for several more years.

The older brother of Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland, Father Leyland contends that Bishop Blair is forcing him into retirement as punishment for publicly criticizing the bishop's handling of the creation of a new Perrysburg parish, Blessed John XXIII, which cuts into St. Rose's boundaries.

Father Leyland has filed an appeal with the Vatican asking it to overturn Bishop Blair's decision.

Claudia Vercellotti of the Toledo chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said yesterday that the bishop's willingness to meet with St. Rose's parishioners after Father Leyland's retirement "is analogous to a governor agreeing to consider a stay of execution - the day after the execution."

Contact David Yonke at:

dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.



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