Father Leland J. White dies at age 61


CHARLESTON — Father Leland J. White, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston and distinguished educator and author, died in the Holy City Sept. 27 after an extended illness.

Born in Charleston on July 25, 1940, Father White was the son of the late Leland Sewell James White and Rose Winifred White. Survivors include his four sisters, Carole Anne White, Rose Mary White Ryan, and Catherine White Seyle, all of Charleston; and Rose Winifred White Dworschak of Jacksonville, Fla.; three brothers, Francis D. White, John A. White and Stephen J. White, all of Charleston; and numerous nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by a brother, Charles deVineau White.

Father White graduated from Cathedral Grammar School and Bishop England High School. He received a degree in philosophy from St. Mary’s University in Baltimore, Md., and two degrees in theology from the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He later earned a doctorate in religion and culture at Duke University, a master’s degree in counseling at the University of Michigan, and a doctorate from the Seton Hall University School of Law. He was the recipient of a fellowship at the Ecumenical Institute for Advanced Theological Studies in Jerusalem, and National Endowment for the Humanities Grant at Yale University and Princeton University.

Ordained a priest of the Diocese of Charleston in Rome on Dec. 18, 1965, Father White served as associate pastor of St. Joseph Church in Columbia from 1966 to 1968. While in the capital city he was active in the Columbia Ministers Association and chaired a commission on continuing education for the clergy established by the South Carolina Christian Action Council. He helped organize a study-action group, the Fellowship of Clergy and Laity (FOCAL) to deal with issues of race and social justice.

Father White then taught theology at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Wash., and St. John’s Seminary in Plymouth, Mich. He subsequently headed Religious Studies departments at Nazareth College in Kalamazoo, Mich., and Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., before joining the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at St. John’s University in New York in 1982.

He is the author of numerous books and articles, including Act in theology: A dramatist inquiry into method in Karl Barth and Bernard Lonergan and Jesus the Christ: A bibliography. He also served as editor of an international journal, Biblical Theology Bulletin, since 1982. He has been summer adjunct faculty member in the Religious Studies program at the College of Charleston since 1994.

Wake services were held at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist on Sept. 31. The Mass of Christian Burial, celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker, was held on Oct. 1 at the Cathedral. Burial followed in St. Lawrence Cemetery.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Liver Transplant Center, MUSC, Charleston, SC 29404, or the Charleston County Democratic Party.

Messages of condolence may be sent to Rose Mary White Ryan, 127 Queen St., Charleston, SC 29401.