A great man among us, and a humble servant of the Lord, has passed. The Very Reverend Leonid Kishkovsky – Orthodox Christian priest; husband, father and grandfather; mentor and colleague; and friend to many – died after a long illness on the evening of August 3, 2021. May we be blessed by his memory!
Fr Leonid was well known around the world. He conferred with religious leaders, advised political leaders, and served on countless boards, committees, and advisory panels. Everyone who met with him knew him to be wise, knowledgeable, and genuine. What many people may not know is that, in addition to his family, the center of his life was his parish community. The Church of Our Lady of Kazan, in the hamlet of Sea Cliff, NY, grounded him, and his parishioners were always in his heart.
His wife, Alexandra (Mimi), was a devoted partner in life, and indeed served as the mother of the parish. Together, they reveled in their children and grandchildren, even if for extended periods the reveling was done from a distance, for his family, like many families today, was spread across the globe. When Fr Leonid traveled, and before his illness he did so frequently, Mimi attended to the concerns of their parishioners.
Outside his local community, and beyond the Orthodox Church in America and the wider Orthodox community, Fr Leonid was never timid when it came to participating in ecumenical and interfaith settings. In this he was a great mentor to many of his contemporaries and younger Christian leaders and ecumenists, for he saw it as his mission to honestly translate Orthodoxy to ecumenical and interfaith audiences, and to “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands of you an accounting of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15b-16a, NRSV). As to the last part of this instruction, Fr Leonid was always ready to embrace the generosity of spirit displayed by ecumenical and interfaith partners around the world, and to learn from them. Indeed, he held fast to Orthodoxy, yet he was open to the faiths of others. He was their friend, and with them he enjoyed intense conversation, shared keen observations, and gave in to hearty laughter.
At various times, and among many other roles, Fr. Leonid served as president of the National Council of Churches USA and as chair of its World Council of Churches Relations committee, moderator of Religions for Peace International and Religions for Peace USA, and as a member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee. He also served as Moderator of Christian Churches Together in the USA, as well as a long-time board member of International Orthodox Christian Charities and an original co-moderator of ACT (Action by Churches Together) International. For his service over many years, in 2020 the NCC conferred upon him the President’s Award for Excellence in Faithful Leadership. His message, as he accepted the award, is available on video here.
Fr Leonid’s model of leadership extended to his mentorship of younger priests. His biography, as posted on his parish webpage, is here.
Later in life, he lost part of a leg due to his illness, but characteristic of his faith and witness, he was determined to serve at the altar in his parish. Aided by other priests and parish members, he was able to do so. In this, until near the end of his life, he faithfully served his flock, gave witness to his courage, and fortified their souls. May he therefore now hear the words of the Lord, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23, RSV).
We will miss Fr Leonid. We grieve his passing. But we will always remember his generosity, his kindness, and yes, his laughter. May Fr Leonid rest in peace! And as prayed in the Orthodox Christian tradition, may his memory be eternal!