Father Albinus Lesch, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1912-1989)

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Born Raymond Lesch on June 14, 1912 in Auburn, New York, his father was a business leader and his mother a teacher. He entered the Passionists and professed his vows on August 15, 1934 and received the religious name Albinus. He was ordained on May 1, 1941. After sacred eloquence he was director of students for three years. From 1945 until 1956 he was a military chaplain in the United States Air Force. One source says that he was the first priest to fly over the North Pole and often accompanied pilots on experimental flights. During the 1950s he served in the Philippines as a military chaplain. It was there that he met Apostolic Nuncio Vagnozzi who requested that Father Lesch seek out the possibility of bringing the Passionists to the Philippines. Perhaps this is the way that the discussions began to establish the 1958 commitment to the mission. Once he left the Air Force, Father Lesch worked as an assistant pastor St. Michael’s Monastery Church, Union City, New Jersey. Suffering from an ulcer he underwent surgery and recovered enough to join the first missionaries to the Philippines in 1958. There he was assigned to the coastal parish of Kiamba in southern Mindanao. Frequently he traveled by boat. In 1962 he became very sick so he went to Marbel to regain his strength and then began to serve in the parish of Dadiangas which had over 100,000 Catholics and more than 25 out stations. Training of lay leadership was essential. Developing Christian community was essential. He built a large parish center which also became the cultural and social center for General Santos City. At the same time he had to contend with local warlord Adan de las Marias who was known locally as “Octupus” and had a private army. Father Lesch penned a letter against the local warlord in the local parish bulletin entitled “Who Runs Our Town” in 1973. This confrontation was picked up by the local press. Father Lesch served in the parish for 11 years. At the same time he was First Consultor for the Philippine Mission. In 1975 Father Lesch was assigned to Polomolok. In 1979 he went to Lagao. In late 1988 to early 1989 he began to suffer from strokes which eventually hastened his death.

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