Father Leon John Hedges, who served as a priest of the Diocese of
Rochester for more than 60 years, died on Jan. 16, 2004. He was 85.
A native of Hornell, Father Hedges was baptized and confirmed at St.
Ann’s Parish there. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s
seminaries in Rochester, and was ordained on June 5, 1943.
Following ordination, Father Hedges served as assistant pastor at
Immaculate Conception Parish in Ithaca from 1943-48. He worked there
with Father John T. Walsh, currently priest-in-residence at Our Lady
Queen of Peace Parish in Brighton. Like the priest’s other friends,
Father Walsh said he would remember Father Hedges for his sense of
“I suppose most of us will remember him as always joshing or
kidding,” Father Walsh said. “I use that word because while he loved to
embarrass me, he was always cautious not to belittle anyone.”
In 1948, Father Hedges was named assistant pastor of Nativity of
the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Brockport. Father William Graf,
currently pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Fairport, served with
“Jack was a man of the church, describing the church as the people,”
Father Graf said. “All were welcome into the community. Jack would be
most hospitable in welcoming anyone at any time.”
Father Graf added that Father Hedges was a boon to his fellow
“He helped us laugh at ourselves and some of the situations we had
to deal with,” Father Graf said. “Jack’s laughter could take away the
sting of hurt and frustration.”
Both Fathers Walsh and Graf pointed out that Father Hedges had a
deeply serious side, and counseled many a parishioner.
“He was always reading, going to conferences, and trying to learn so
that he could preach better or become a better pastoral counselor,”
Father Graf said.
In 1951, Father Hedges was named assistant pastor of Old St. Mary’s
Parish in Rochester. Then, in 1963, he was named chaplain of the
University of Rochester’s Newman Community. He held that position he
held until 1968, when he was appointed to his first pastorate at St.
Charles Borromeo Parish in Greece. While at St. Charles, he
concurrently served as diocesan consultor, appointed first in 1972 and
again in 1977.
In 1978, Father Hedges was named pastor of St. Helen’s Parish in
Gates, where he remained until his retirement in 1988. Following
retirement, he lived at St. Joseph’s Parish in Penfield, and then at
the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse in Brighton.
Father Hedges is survived by his nieces and nephews, Mary Sue
Kenerson; Bob (Deborah) Hedges; Anne (Andy) Senesac; Joanie (Jim)
Holtkamp; Maureen (Bill) Olsen and Janine (Dave) McFall; and the
Sisters of Mercy.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark celebrated a funeral Mass for Father Hedges
at St. Joseph’s in Penfield on Jan. 19. Interment took place at Holy
Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester.
Memorial donations may be sent to the Sisters of Mercy of Americas,
1437 Blossom Road, Rochester, NY 14610.