About Fr. John Paul Leyba
Our new pastor, Father John Paul Leyba, joined us the weekend of June 17-18 to celebrate his first Masses here at Cabrini. Fr. John Paul was most recently the Pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church and School in Westminster, CO and he previously spent two and a half years at St. Anthony’s in Julesburg, Colorado after spending time at St. Thomas More parish in Centennial, CO.
Father John Paul Leyba was born near Taos, New Mexico. One of five children, he grew up and attended schools in Penasco, N.M. As a boy he was a faithful altar server and he made sure his parents got him to church on time. He seemed to always enjoy being at Mass. Fr. John Paul started playing guitar at 7 and the following year joined the parish choir as a musician. He continued to serve as a parish musician even as a young adult. His high school autobiography list of possibilities for a future career included: music, engineering or priesthood.
He earned a degree in electrical engineering from the University of New Mexico and got a job with Hughes Aircraft in Aurora, Colo. He enjoyed his work there, but after about 10 years, he called his family to tell them that he was applying to the Archdiocese of Denver to attend seminary.
John Paul Leyba very nearly chose a very different life for himself before concluding God was calling him to the priesthood. In fact, it wasn’t until he and his fiancée were in the midst of marriage preparation that his feeling that he might have a vocation to the priesthood became too acute to ignore. Fortunately, his fiancée, a devout Catholic herself, had once considered a vocation as a nun and so understood his dilemma. The engagement was put on hold, Fr. John Paul found a spiritual director, and a year-and-a-half later he entered Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. At the time, 1997, Denver did not have a seminary.
It officially took five years of schooling and a year-and-a-half of discernment to get Fr. John Paul to his ordination June 1, but really, his vocation was a lifetime in the making. After his ordination in June 2002, Father John Paul Leyba was assigned to St. Thomas More. He served as parochial vicar until 2005.
After Father John Paul Leyba left St. Thomas More, he spent two and a half years at St. Anthony’s in Julesburg, Colorado, a town near the border of Nebraska. While there, Father John Paul says he “did everything,” from running the parish both financially and spiritually, to fixing toilets, shoveling snow and fixing leaks. Since St. Anthony’s had no parish staff, Father John Paul did it all. He says his experiences at St. Anthony’s were fun and that he learned a lot. Another task Father John Paul managed at St. Anthony’s was teaching the teen religious education program, which he says was “intimidating” because, unlike St. Thomas More which has full-time youth ministers, he was given the task of coming up with the material to teach them. But, overall, Father John Paul likes working with youth because they are “wild” and willing to share themselves with others and open up spiritually. He also says, “I think like they do, so I think I relate to them.” After serving at St. Anthony’s, Father John Paul spent two and half years at Our Lady of Loreto.
For six months the pastor of Our Lady of Loreto was on sabbatical, so Fr. John Paul was again given the task of running both the financial and the spiritual sides of the parish. However, after being in Julesburg, doing administrative work at Our Lady of Loreto was a lot easier, and he says it was also interesting. At every parish in which he has served, Father John Paul says his favorite part is the people, who are “fascinating. Everybody’s so different and so not different. You just don’t get bored…you’re always exploring… the way they think and their perspectives on life.” Father describes working with people like “being an explorer. There’s always new territory.”
Following his time at Our Lady of Loreto, Fr. John Paul returned to St. Thomas More before being assigned as Pastor of Holy Trinity in Westminster, CO where he has spent the past several years.
In addition to his musical talent that he previously shared at the LifeTeen Masses at St. Thomas Moore, Father John Paul provides the parishioners with his insight to the Gospel readings. He says he came up with this idea when he was ten years old. While on vacation in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he attended a Mass where the priest explained the Gospel readings. Father John Paul never forgot that experience and he adopted it for himself. He explained, “I want people to recognize that we’re not that different from the people in the Scriptures,” and he hopes, “It would spark in people a love for the Scriptures.”
Father John Paul has so many gifts to share with Cabrini, both musical and spiritual, and we are blessed to have him as our new Pastor.
Below are some videos of past homilies by Fr. John Paul that were published by St. Thomas More Parish.