Com­mu­nity re­mem­bers Fr. Greg

MacLeod spent much of his life com­bin­ing Chris­tian so­cial teach­ings with busi­ness

Cape Breton Post - - Cape Breton - BY GREG MCNEIL gm­c­neil@cb­

Even at an early age, the in­tel­li­gence and drive of Fr. Greg MacLeod was ob­vi­ous to every­one who knew him.

“If he didn’t make 100, he went home and stud­ied some more,” said Em­mett O’Con­nor, who at­tended school with MacLeod in Syd­ney Mines and worked with him on com­mu­nity ini­tia­tives later in life.

“While the rest of us were out play­ing hockey and try­ing to fig­ure out how to skip Sunday school, he’d be home study­ing. He loved to read and it was ev­i­dent in the things he knew.”

After his school years, MacLeod, who died ear­lier this week at the age of 81, would go on to make a name for him­self as an in­no­va­tor, an ed­u­ca­tor and some­one who could bring peo­ple to­gether — all for the bet­ter­ment of Cape Bre­ton.

O’Con­nor en­vied him for his end­less amounts of en­ergy, say­ing he didn’t know the mean­ing of the word tired.

“I used to hate to talk to him be­cause he al­ways had a job for me,” he laughed. “I used to tell him how busy I was so that he wouldn’t give me a job but he’d give me a job any­way. He used to say to me ‘busy peo­ple are the best ones to get.’”

The two worked to­gether on things like the Red Brick Row af­ford­able hous­ing project in Syd­ney Mines, a 20-unit apart­ment build­ing on Pitt Street, and other projects mostly un­der the guid­ance of New Deal De­vel­op­ment, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that branched out for the Syd­ney-based New Dawn.

MacLeod was or­dained a Catholic pri­est in 1961 and later ap­pointed to teach at Xavier Ju­nior Col­lege in Syd­ney. He would be­come a life­long ed­u­ca­tor and mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada.

He be­came in­volved in com­mu­nity eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment when the coalmines were clos­ing in 1969 and spent much of his life after that find­ing ways to com­bine Chris­tian so­cial teach­ings with sound busi­ness prac­tises.

That’s about the time Fr. Ora McManus would meet him.

“There was a lot of spec­u­la­tion and ten­sion and worry on the part of the work­ing peo­ple,” McManus re­called about that time.

“Greg was right there try­ing to fig­ure out a way of help­ing the com­mu­nity to un­der­stand it­self and to be able to help peo­ple to con­trib­ute to re­plac­ing those two big in­dus­tries — coal and steel — with lo­cal peo­ple.”

MacLeod’s em­pha­sis on an econ­omy based on hu­man val­ues rather than profit in­spired him to found the Tomp­kins In­sti­tute at Cape Bre­ton Univer­sity, which led to the cre­ation of com­mu­nity eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment ven­tures New Dawn En­ter­prises and BCA Hold­ings.

McManus called that work the love of his life.

Ce­cil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, first worked with MacLeod through BCA Hold­ings on a project that evolved into Syd­ney Mines Re­newal.

He said MacLeod had vi­sion and could see pos­si­bil­i­ties other peo­ple could not, even in the midst of chal­leng­ing times.

“The thing you would see with Greg is that it didn’t mat­ter who you were, what your so­cial or eco­nomic stand­ing was — it was all equal in terms of ev­ery­body had a role to play in their com­mu­nity,” Clarke said.

“He would in­clude peo­ple in all walks of life and saw the value of en­gaged ci­ti­zen­ship and really in­spired peo­ple by build­ing them up and sup­port­ing them.”

Clarke said MacLeod’s death cre­ates a void in the com­mu­nity but his life’s work leaves “quite the last­ing legacy” for others to build on.

“I don’t think that any­body will ever for­get that Greg strove to be a fa­ther fig­ure for this com­mu­nity,” said McManus.

“He wanted ev­ery­body who is able to par­tic­i­pate in con­tribut­ing to the wel­fare of the whole com­mu­nity. And so he was a com­mu­nity leader, sec­ond to none.”


Com­mu­nity ac­tivist Fr. Greg MacLeod died this week at the age of 81.

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