Davis, Leo

Born in Nebraska, USA, Fr Leo L. Davis (1914-1988) was the founder of the Cardijn Center in San Diego, California, where he was a priest of the diocese for 50 years.

He entered St. John's Seminary in Los Angeles and was ordained in 1938, becoming one of the first three priests assigned to the newly created Diocese of San Diego, Higgins said.

His first parish was Our Lady of Angels in San Diego, followed by parish work in Descanso, Campo and other locations.

He was later assigned to St. Mary's (now Holy Trinity) parish in El Cajon.

While at St. Mary's, Davis convened conferences aimed at increasing understanding of labor and labor organizations. His affinity for labor continued through the years, and he served as mediator in many labor-management disputes.

He was also chaplain to both the YCW and YCS in the San Diego diocese.

 for several labor organizations, and at one time he was known as "San Diego's Labor Priest," a long time friend, Pat Higgins once said.

For 30 years, he was chaplain of Cardijn Center, a Catholic lay organization dedicated to advancing the church's principles of social justice. In that position, Davis became known for his effectiveness in steering young people from drugs and alcohol, Higgins said.

"He was a first-class guy. He had lots and lot of friends. He believed that things could be improved in this world." Higgins said, adding that Davis had the ability to get along with people and strong feelings for the underdog.

Fr Davis also worked closely with the Hispanic Catholic labor leader, Cesar Chavez. He was responsible for introducing Fr Victor Salandini, who later became known as the 'Tortilla priest" to Chavez.

Fr Davis was also seminary rector for the Diocese of San Diego.

"He was a very simple man," according to Father James R. Anderson, who co-founded the Cardijn Center with Fr Davis. "He lived a very simple life. He was very concerned about the needs of the poor and the working man. He was particularly concerned about Mexican people.

In his will, Davis asked "to be buried in the cemetery with the poor."


Father Leo L. Davis, 50 Years a Priest, Dies at 74 (Los Angeles Times)

Victor Salandini, The Confessions of the Tortilla Priest (Read the chapter on Fr Leo Davis)

Alberto Lopez Pulido, Farm labor and the Catholic Church in California, in Thomas Reifer, Global crises and the challenges of the 21st century