Leo J. Reichart, O.S.A.

1884 – 1979 (January 26)

Leo James Reichart, son of August Reichart and Catherine Wummer, was born in Bally, Pennsylvania on February 22, 1884. His primary education was obtained at Blessed Sacrament Parochial School in his native town. After having worked for a while as a tailor, he enrolled at the Augustinian Preparatory Scholasticate, Saint Rita Hall, Villanova, in 1903. Received as a novice on July 4, 1907, he professed simple vows on July 6, 1908, and solemn vows on October 18, 1911. He began his college education at Villanova in 1907, but was sent to Rome in 1908, to pursue philosophical and theological training at Saint Monica’s International College. He was ordained to the priesthood at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Rome, on July 25, 1913, and offered his first Mass at the Tomb of Saint Monica in Saint Augustine Church there the following day.

Upon his return to the United States, Father Reichart taught Latin at Villanova for a year, and then was named assistant pastor at Our Mother of Consolation Parish, Chestnut Hill, on June 20, 1914. Very shortly therafter, he was transferred on October 30, 1914 to Saint Rita Parish, South Philadelphia where he served the people and the Order uninterruptedly for the next 54 years – as curate, prior of the community, pastor, and definitor of the province.

The record of Father Reichart’s apostolate at Saint Rita’s is not so much to be found in the church he renovated, both upstairs and down, nor in the school he built, in the many social services he brought to the parish, nor in the societies he fostered, the devotions he sponsored, in particular, the novena prior to the feast of Saint Rita, or the awards he received – all this he himself recorded in his personal data sheet laconically: “Bought a piece of land. Built a new school.” Rather his priestly service is inscribed in the hearts of the thousands of people he touched and the Augustinians who labored with him.

Father Reichart was primarily a man of prayer. The people of the parish knew well the fervor with which he celebrated Mass; his confreres knew the hours he spent in prayer every day, in the community chapel, on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament. While he was a man of sacrifice, penance, self-denial, most memorable were his smiling face and friendly manner. He loved people. No one was ever turned away. He was never too busy, never too tired. His devotion to the sick is legendary. Unforgettable was the familiar sight of Father Reichart, head bowed, stole around his shoulders, walking the streets of the parish, taking the Blessed Sacrament to the sick in their homes. It was the only time this most gregarious of men did not greet anyone he passed. Every evening before going to bed he went about the community saying to his brothers: “Buon riposo, buon riposo.”

Even in retirement at the age of 84, Father Reichart continued for yet another nine years in his ministry, at full pace, until ill health required his taking residence at the Villa of Divine Providence, Lansdale, in 1977. There Father Reichart died on January 26, 1979, at the age of 95. His Funeral Mass was celebrated at Saint Rita Church, after which he was buried in the Augustinian plot at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, PA.