Biographies

Father J. Leo Foley, MM

Born: July 14, 1899
Ordained: June 5, 1932
Died: October 16, 1937

J. Leo Foley, the third in a family of seven, was born on July 14, 1899 in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. Because of his distaste for school he went to work for the Canadian Postal Service at the age of fourteen. After three years, however, he was convinced of the importance of an education and entered St. Bonaventure’s College at St. Johns, Newfoundland. Nearing his eighteenth birthday he volunteered with the Newfoundland Liegiment and saw action in France during the first World War. In 1920 he came to the United States where he secured employment with the Edison Company of Boston.

Father Foley attributed his missionary vocation to the impression his mother gave him of the greatness of the priesthood and to the stories of China she told him as a boy. A friend advised him to investigate Maryknoll in order to realize his desires. In 1923 Leo entered the Venard, went to the major seminary in 1926 and was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1932.

In July of the same year he was assigned to Wuchow as one of the pioneers of the mission. Having completed his first year of language studies, he was appointed to work in various parishes within the territory. The reports of his superiors show that he was well liked by the Chinese and that he won them by his gentleness. Father Foley was content to take any assignment given him and was not inclined to criticism or complaint.

On October 12, 1937 Father Foley fell ill, and was taken to the mission at Laipo in order to receive better treatment. Once he was at Laipo, his illness worsened. Father Foley died on October 16, 1937, after only five years of mission work in China.

The funeral mass was celebrated at the Kweilin Mission and burial was in the Maryknoll cemetery outside the city.