Father Leo J. Peloquin, MM
Born: March 14, 1892
Ordained: May 31, 1925
Died: June 10, 1942
Leo Joseph Peloquin was born in Spencer, Mass, on March 14, 1892. He attended O’Gara public school and St. Mary’s parochial school in Spencer before his parents moved to Brockton where he continued his education. He worked for six years there in a shoe factory. In 1916 Leo decided to enter Maryknoll. He was ordained on May 31, 1925.
After only four months of language study Father Leo received his first mission assignment in 1925 as pastor of the Wiju Mission in Korea. Drawing on the experience gained in the shoe factory Father soon set his skilled hands to work building what he fondly hoped to call his Old Folks Home. Under the efficient management of the Maryknoll Sisters, his ‘home’ met with the full approbation of the government authorities and was one of the few charitable works receiving a yearly donation from the Empress of Japan. Although this was Father’s first attempt at building, it was not to be his last for his career as a missioner was to be essentially that of a builder.
With five years of vigorous work in Korea under his belt, Father Leo was appointed in 1930 Second Assistant to the Society Superior in Peng Yang. As the years passed, numerous other Old Folks Homes arose on the various Maryknoll missions. The last of these was a rest home constructed on the south coast of Korea at the insistence of the Japanese Imperial Navy.
Combined with the extreme heat of the summer of 1941 and the one-hundred mile journey over the mountains to his mission, this last proved to be too taxing on Father’s strength. He had to make the trip on foot because the Japanese (five months before Pearl Harbor) refused to allow any foreigners to ride the trains. Hearing of Father Leo’s illness, Bishop O’Shea sent Fr. Louis Kim to Kongay. Father Kim found his condition serious and gave him the last Sacraments.
With the attack on Pearl Harbor Father was placed in custody by the police at his own mission. His condition worsened and Father Leo remained alone in Kongay with only a recently converted student nurse to care for him. Finally, the chief of police sent him to Peng Yang for medical treatment. Given some hope of living if he remained at the hospital, Father submissively heard the orders that he was to return to Kongay. Weakening each day, he was later released to the Maryknoll Fathers in Peng Yang. Praying for a miracle, they moved him to a hospital in Kobe, Japan. So Fr. Peloquin began the last of his difficult journeys, so characteristic of his life spent in the service of others. On June 10, 1942, in the government hospital in Kobe, Father’s longest journey ended as God called him to Himself. He was buried in the cemetery of the Paris Foreign Mission Society, Kobe, Japan.