Father Bill Leininger, a Catholic priest and a familiar face to local activists at protests and on picket lines, died on January 2, 2020, a few days before his 90th birthday.
His brother Bob sent out a tribute to friends that said in part, “Father Bill was inspired by Pope John’s call to action and his life became firmly grounded in Liberation Theology. Whether standing up for the rights of janitors in High Tech companies or strawberry pickers in Watsonville, he understood the politics of compromise, but never supported a deal until he was sure that the particular injustice was addressed fairly.”
“He walked alongside Cesar Chavez, was arrested many times for his participation in protests and marches, and tirelessly lobbied at all levels of government for legislation and program funding for the needy and oppressed. But for all of his time and efforts in these “big picture issues,” he always had the time and energy to help the little guy with problems, such as family conflicts, or maybe details with a citizenship snafu. No matter was too small and if it mattered to the victim, it mattered to Father Bill.”
As his brother says, “We can take comfort in knowing that Father Bill’s all consuming commitment to sacrifice, giving, and fighting for the downtrodden and forgotten in this society is a value that will live on in the many thousands he inspired.”
In 2013, Father Bill was honored by Working Partnerships at their annual dinner with an award as a Social Conscience Champion.
His obituary in the Mercury can be found here.