Stephen J. Leonetti
Before attending AHS, I attended Ramona Elementary School from the third to the eighth grades. I began school at Durfee Elementary School in Pico Rivera. Our family moved to Alhambra in 1953.
After graduation from AHS, I attended and was graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1968. While at UCSB, I was a member of the Alpha Delta Phi Fraternity and played on the first Varsity Soccer team at UCSB.
During my senior year at UCSB, I was married to the former Penelope Ann Lockwood. Upon graduation we applied to and were accepted to the Peace Corps in India. We spent a little over two years in India working on commercial vegetable production and nutrition.
When we returned in 1971 we both attended Claremont Graduate School (now Claremont Graduate University) where I was awarded a Master of International Studies degree in 1974.
In 1973 I began work in public administration as the Public Works Coordinator for the City of Temple City. During my three-year career there, I was divorced and remarried to the former Judith Gale Burgess. Judy and I will celebrate our 40th anniversary this November.
In 1975 I went to work for the County of Los Angeles, first as a Personnel Analyst and then as a Budget Analyst. I stayed there until 1978 when I resigned to attend the General Theological Seminary in preparation for ordination in the Episcopal Church.
The years from 1971 to 1978 were very busy. I coached, refereed, and was an official in the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO). From 1976 to 1978 I was the area director for the western San Gabriel Valley for AYSO with six regions and over 10,000 children playing every Saturday during the fall and winter months.
In the summer of 1976 while on a delayed honeymoon, I had a conversion experience which prompted me to join St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Monrovia (where we lived at the time) and the be confirmed. I had grown up in the Unitarian-Universalist tradition and was a fervent agnostic until this conversion experience.
Two years later I applied for and was accepted as a Postulant for Holy Orders in the Diocese of Los Angeles and I was accepted to the General Theological Seminary in New York City. We moved to New York in the summer of 1981 and quickly fell in love with that city: the food, the arts, the diversity, and the constant energy keeps us coming back over the years.
I was graduated from the General Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree and ordained to the deaconate in 1981. I was ordained a priest in January of 1982.
My first job out of seminary was on the staff of the Diocese of Los Angeles. I was appointed to a job that normally goes to a senior cleric. However, the bishop had great trust in me and hired me. I preached and celebrated in ninety of the 178 congregations in that diocese during the three years I was on the staff. I really enjoyed the work I was doing.
I very quickly realized that as fulfilling as the work on the diocesan staff was, I missed being a part of a regularly worshipping community. So in 1984 I resigned from the Bishop’s staff when I was called to be the Vicar of the Church of the Resurrection in Eugene, Oregon.
The six years we spent in Eugene were wonderful. My wife received her Master of Science degree in Education. The church grew and we still have some very close friends from our days there.
In 1990 I received a call to be the Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Medford, Massachusetts. It had the distinction of being the first church H. H. Richardson designed. While the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and Patriots were all attractions, and the food and culture came close to New York, we were not happy. I resigned after twenty-one months and took a job back in Oregon.
In 1992 I was called to be the Vicar of St. James’ in Coquille, St. Mark’s in Myrtle Point, and St. Paul’s in Powers. This ministry was collectively called the Coquille Valley Ministry. The three years I spent in Coquille were rich. I am the most proud of the ecumenical food closet St. James’ spearheaded. Over two decades later it is still operating and meeting the needs of the poor and hungry in the Coquille Valley.
And during my tenure in Coquille, I became a part of the Sawdusters' Theater. For two seasons I starred as the villain in the melodrama. We performed over thirty times each summer. My godson told me after attending a performance that he did not want to go the church with us the next morning. He would see me as the villain even when I was preaching the gospel.
In 1995 I accepted the call to become the Rector of the Church of the Epiphany in Vacaville, California. I remained there until I retired in 2011 after thirty years of ordained ministry. During my tenure we began a community dinner program one nigh a week, serving a hot meal to anyone who wanted it. We began with a single family and grew to where we were serving over three hundred meals a week. The church has expanded to a second day, serving lunch.
While at Epiphany, I also became active in prison ministry, through a ministry called Kairos, a weekend spiritual renewal program for inmates. I also began to do service at the California Medical Facility (CMF) twice a month. Since I retired, however, I do services nearly every Saturday afternoon. It gives me a chance to keep my hand in preaching and celebrating every week.
But the prison ministry of which I am the most proud is called Education for Ministry. It is a four year continuing education program out of the School of Theology at the University of the South. I introduced it at the California Medical Facility the year before I retired. I am going into my fifth year of mentoring this program and this past June we had five inmates (3 lifers and 2 terminate sentenced inmates) graduate. One of my inmates who did two years in the program was paroled two years ago. I believe largely because of this program.
Ever since I was called to Eugene, Oregon, I have been a member of Rotary International. I have joined the local club wherever I have found myself. Beginning in Eugene and continuing through Vacaville, Judy and I have hosted twelve exchange students through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. As a result I got to baptize the first child of our first exchange student in Porvoo, Finland. We visited another exchange student in the Czech Republic. And we attended the wedding of our student from India in India and later visited him after the birth of his first child., again in India.
The year before I retired, the Rotary Club of Vacaville made me their President. Our great accomplishment that year was to fund a playground at the local homeless shelter as it was being remodeled and expanded.
I will continue to be involved in social justice ministries, especially prison ministry, as long as I am able. I continue to read and study. Judy and continue to travel (another exchange student will be married next June in Germany. Will be there even if I am not doing it.)
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