On this day, September 11, in 2001 three Regis alumni perished along with thousands of other innocent victims in the terror attacks on the then Twin Towers of the World Financial Center in lower Manhattan.
The three Regians who died, before some of our freshmen were born and while most of you were barely out of diapers, were Matthew Leonard '80, Gregory Trost '93, and Paul Battaglia '96. There is a small plaque in their honor in the back of our school chapel – stop in and say a prayer for them when you can.
Matt Leonard was well known to me. He was a parishioner of the Oratory parish of Saint Boniface were I was then the newly appointed pastor. I know his mother Helen, and his wife Yolanda and their daughter Christina. Christina made her confirmation this past year at St. Boniface. She was 7 months old when her father left for work at 7:11 AM that tragic September morning 14 years ago today.
Matt was a giant of a man in every sense of the word and I wanted to give him the pulpit this morning to lead this call to prayer.
He was a good and faithful man on so many levels and his Catholic faith, which he first learnt at home and then had nurtured by the Ignatian spirituality in which he was formed here at Regis, was integral to his life.
He not only sat in a pew every Sunday morning, he took that nourishment into his life to feed others.
Matt did well as a lawyer, rising to director of litigation for Cantor Fitzgerald – and a big office on the 104th floor of the South Tower. But he was also known for extensive pro bono work, largely at MFY Legal Services. He started working there as an intern, helping poor Chinatown residents while he was at Columbia Law School, and served for more than a decade on its board.
There are countless similar acts of kindness in his resume, but the story I love best about Matt is one his wife Yolanda often tells.
One Christmas she was to meet Matt after work outside Brooklyn Boro Hall, near where they lived. As she approached the corner of she saw a small crowd and could hear two voices singing Christmas carols. She recognized Matt’s excellent baritone. As she turned the corner she soon saw the other voice belonged to a homeless man begging in the street. Matt was standing with his hand over the man’s shoulder encouraging passers-by to extend their hand in charity and make a gift; a Christmas gift worthy of our God who was born in a stable.
Manhattan federal district judge, Peter Leisure, was quoted in the New York Times in Matt's obituary as saying, "He (Matt Leonard) probably was the kindest law clerk I ever had."
Here, gentlemen, is our prayer for you as you begin your first year at Regis or your fourth, that when you have run the course of whatever days God's providence will afford you, we can say that of you too: he was a good man, the kindest man I knew. This is the greatness to which we call you. Gentlemen, this is the greatness to aspire to.