Msgr. Michael
Msgr. Michael Lenihan, an influential priest who served as the spiritual leader of one of the South Bay's largest Catholic communities for nearly three decades, has died. He was 85. Lenihan had recently been struck with a lung and kidney infection. He died Wednesday night at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance, friends confirmed. He was surrounded by friends and family. Lenihan was named pastor of St. Lawrence Martyr Parish in Redondo Beach in July 1981, and served in that role for 22 years. Parish staff members on Thursday described Lenihan as a kind and respected leader whose work transcended the church. "His arms were always open wide to anyone for anything," said church staff member Virginia Dargen as she fought back tears. "It set the tone for how our parish is." Lenihan was born the youngest of nine children on Sept. 15, 1925, in Castleisland, a small town in southwest Ireland. Although health concerns prevented him from realizing his dream of serving as a foreign missionary in Africa - he lost three sisters, two brothers and his mother to tuberculosis - it would be an American recruiter visiting St. Peter's Seminary in County Wexford that persuaded the young Lenihan to come to the United States, according to an obituary released Thursday by the parish. After his ordination in June 1952, Lenihan became a priest in Corpus Christi, Texas, before moving to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 1958. He served as an associate pastor at St. Luke's Catholic Church in Temple City and as a pastor at St. Columbkille Catholic Church in Watts. Many of Lenihan's former parishioners - and their children and grandchildren - continued to visit Lenihan after he moved to Redondo Beach in the early 1980s, those who knew him said. "He was wonderful to everyone who came in," said Carol Nadalsky, the business manager at St. Lawrence who knew Lenihan for about 27 years. "He treated everyone with respect and kindness. He always looked for the good in everybody and was very much involved in the whole community." Lenihan was given the honorary title of monsignor in 1988, and is credited with establishing social programs for parish adults and teens that remain popular today. He also oversaw the completion of major building projects at the church on Prospect Avenue, including a remodel of the parish hall in 1995. Under his leadership, the church grew from a relatively small congregation to its current membership of about 3, 600 families. He was known as "Father Michael" among church parishioners and spoke in an iconic Irish accent. He presided over First Communions, weddings and funerals, anointings of the sick, Sunday liturgies and early morning weekday Masses. He baptized countless adults and children. In 2001 Lenihan was named a protonotary apostolic, the highest rank of monsignor, by Pope John Paul II for his years of service and contributions to the church. Lenihan retired as pastor in 2003 and lived on church grounds in Redondo Beach, where he continued to serve as a parish priest. At the time of his death, Lenihan held the title of pastor emeritus at the parish. Lenihan is survived by six nephews and a niece. Visitation will be from 2 p.m. to midnight Monday in the main parish's church. A vigil will be held at 7 p.m. A funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, followed by burial at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.

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  1. Dear Fr. Mike, Linette told me she wrote you a letter last week telling you how much you meant to her. I told her she was very brave. I wish I had been able to tell you how you were a hero to me and so many other people at St. Lawrence! You never judged any of us and you were always full of stories to make us laugh. I am going to miss you very much, Love, Frances

  2. Fr. Lenihan; I came to STLM 23 years ago, in Mar ’88 which is how long I have known you. When I first attended STLM, I immediately felt welcome & that I finally was home. I believe this was mostly due to your influence. I will miss our chats, your stories & laughter we shared. I will also miss your smiling face and open arms to me & everyone you came in contact with. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to let you know how much you meant to me and what a blessing you were in my life. You weren’t just my pastor but I considered you a friend. You were a good & faithful servant and now it is time for you to rest. But I am sure you will greet & welcome us into heaven with a “God love you all” the same way you welcomed us on earth when it is our time to go home. Love your friend in Christ,

  3. Msgr. Lenihan – Shortly after moving to Redondo Beach in 1986 I found St. Lawrence Martyr. The years I lived in the South Bay were among the best of times for many of us (then) young adults. Friendships made then still last to and are cherished today – and our among God’s greatest gifts to us. These blessings would not have been possible without your unwavering support for the Young Adult ministry. You gave us so much and more! You are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers always!

  4. Msgr.Lenihan had a huge impact on my family. He was very helpful and supportive in my efforts to receive a marriage annulment from the Church. Twenty seven years later my lovely wife Maria and I are still happily married. Our two adult children both of which were baptised by then Father Lenihan are successful young people making a difference in their world. I used to refer to Fr. Lenihan as the “Big Boss”, which I think embarressed him a little but we had fun with it. I just wanted you to know how many lives he touched in so many helpful ways that he was a very remarkable man and servant of God to the community he loved. Thank you, Dick Bauman

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