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Rev. Edmund Leising, missionary to Brazil's poor Sept. 19, 1919 -- May 18, 2012

The Rev. Edmund N. Leising grew up on a farm in the Swormville section of East Amherst, but he spent more than half his life helping to feed, educate and inspire the poor people of Brazil.

"He once told me that his biggest goal in life was to help teach the poor ways that they could help make better lives for themselves," recalled his nephew, John Leising, a captain in the Buffalo Fire Department. "Father Ed really devoted his life to doing that."

Father Leising, a missionary priest with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, died Friday in Rio de Janiero after a very brief illness.

He was an energized, active 92-year-old who worked daily with the poor and still played in charity golf tournaments during his annual summer visits to the Buffalo area.

"He sent me a letter last month and said he was still working seven days a week," John Leising said. "He was an amazing guy."

Father Leising was the founder and past president of the Ecumenical Center for Action and Reflection, an organization devoted to educating, feeding and providing youth camps and other activities for poor people in Brazil.

He continued to be active in the organization, known to Brazilians as CEAR, until the day he died.

Raised on a farm in Swormville, Father Leising was one of nine brothers and sisters. One of his brothers also became a priest, and three of his sisters became nuns.

After graduating from Bishop Fallon High School in Buffalo, he decided to pursue a life in the priesthood. Family members said he always yearned to become a missionary in a faraway land, serving the poor.

In 1946, Father Leising boarded an ocean freighter to Brazil. He decided to make his home there, living and working in some of the South American nation's poorest neighborhoods.

"I used to sleep on the floor. I went to the poorest people -- they're afraid and ashamed to come to church," Father Leising said in a November 2011 interview with Western New York Catholic News.

He also said he was more interested in helping the poor than he was in converting them to Catholicism.

"He always wanted to get all the religions of Brazil working together to help the poor," John Leising said.

Father Leising was buried Monday in Brazil. A memorial service for local friends and family will be at 1 p.m. June 10 in St. Mary Catholic Church, 6919 Transit Road, Swormville. His nephew, the Rev. Robert Leising, will celebrate the service.

Father Leising is survived by a brother, Alphonse, and three sisters, Sister Dorothy Mary Leising, Sister Blanche Leising and Sister Florence Leising. The sisters are members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

-- Dan Herbeck