Phillip Leach was born in 1954 in Texas, where he grew up in a deeply religious Protestant household. He graduated from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, with a B.A. in religious studies; he was actively involved in campus politics and served as a student body officer for two years. In 1979 he graduated from the Divinity School of Duke University with a Masters of Divinity, and he stayed on at the Durham, NC school to pursue his doctorate. During graduate studies, he was received into full communion with the Catholic Church on April 7, 1980, at the Newman Parish in Chapel Hill where he later would serve as Pastor and Campus Minister. After completing his Ph.D. in “systematic theology” from Duke, the Bishop of Raleigh, F. Joseph Gossman, sent him to Rome to continue his studies and formation in the Eternal City in preparation for ordination. Leach was ordained a deacon in Rome in 1985, and back in the United States, Bishop Gossman ordained him to the presbyterate (priesthood) on December 6, 1985, at Saint Patrick Church in Fayetteville, NC.

Father Phillip served as Associate Pastor (Parochial Vicar) at Saint Patrick from 1985 – 1988. He was then assigned to Saint Mary Parish in Goldsboro, NC, where he served as Associate Pastor and Temporary Administrator, 1988 – 1989. After the tragic and untimely death of Father Joe Bumann in May, 1989, Father Phillip was appointed to succeed him as Pastor at Good Shepherd Church in Hope Mills, NC, where he served from 1989 until 1992. During those years Father Phillip was named Dean (Vicar Forane) of the Fayetteville Deanery and elected by his fellow priests to serve on the Priests’ Personnel Committee of the Diocese of Raleigh.

In 1992, Father Phillip was sent to Chapel Hill. Initially, he was Pastor of both Saint Thomas More Parish and the Newman Catholic Student Center Parish, from May 1992 until April 1993. In the winter of 1993, Father Phillip had what he called “a nervous breakdown” largely due to the stress of his assignment. The care of his close friends from Fayetteville, the love of his family-of-origin, and the solicitude of Bishop Gossman and his fellow priests, allowed Father Phillip to begin the process of healing. Father Phillip was granted a sabbatical for his health from February 1992 until late June 1992.

When the sabbatical ended, Father Phillip began more than 10 years of psychotherapy for depression which, in addition to stress, was the underlying cause of his “nervous breakdown.” Father Phillip says that having an excellent therapist, such as the one with whom he worked, is essential to the healing process because “God’s healing power comes from prayer and Sacrament as well as through the work of highly trained mental health professionals and medical doctors.”

In July 1993, he returned to full-time ministry as Pastor and Campus Minister at the Newman Catholic Student Center Parish where he continued to serve until his retirement for health reasons in July 2006. In March 2006, Pope Benedict XVI conferred the title Reverend Monsignor on Father Phillip.

Father Phillip’s doctors urged him to retire, and Bishop Gossman kindly granted this request in July 2006. Since retiring his blood pressure, which was the doctors’ primary concern, has, with medicine, gotten considerably less problematic.

“God has been so amazingly generous with me – in so many ways that I could never name them. One of those gifts is that God enabled me to preach and to teach. Sometimes I would go back to my chair after a homily and think, ‘Wow! That was good!’ But I know that the ‘goodness’ came completely from God, so I can take no credit. If these homilies and lectures and sermons help people, I simply thank God because God is the author and source of all that is worthwhile here.”