Rev. William P. Lesak ’71, M.Ed. ’02, Captain, Chaplain Corps, United States Navy (Ret.)

A Lifetime of Service to God and Country

Rev. William P. Lesak ’71, M.Ed. ’02

Some might think Father Bill Lesak has followed God’s calling in an unconventional manner.

Following completion of his undergraduate degree in sociology in 1971 and his ordination to the priesthood in 1975, Father Bill devoted most of his pastoral ministry as a spiritual director to youth-renewal programs, conducting high school retreat programs throughout the Archdiocese of Newark. He ministered for 11 years as a parochial vicar before entering the Navy.

“My father landed on the beach in Normandy on June 6, 1944 and all of my brothers also served their country; Jim served in the Marines during the Vietnam war, John in the Navy, Dennis in the Naval Reserve and Tom in the U.S. Army. I could not help but be inspired by their selfless acts of patriotism. So for me, it wasn’t a question of would I serve, but when. I believe I have two vocations: to serve my country and to serve my church.”

It’s often said that if one wants to see the world, “join the Navy.” Following his commission as a Lieutenant Junior Grade in September 1982, and completion of the Naval Chaplains School in 1983, Father Bill returned to his parish duties as a Reserve Chaplain. In October 1986, he was recalled to active duty in the Navy, which led to a multitude of assignments over a 27-year career that included postings in Okinawa and Iwakuni in Japan, Scotland, Italy, Newport, Rhode Island, Washington, D.C. and finally Cherry Point, North Carolina. He also secured a master’s degree in education from Seton Hall in 2002.

Father Bill’s retirement from the Navy in 2009 only set in motion an opportunity to pursue other calls to service, such as State Chaplain for the Knights of Columbus in North Carolina, Founding Father and first post commander of American Legion Post 539 in New Bern, North Carolina. and as an officer in his local Rotary Club.

What is at the inspiration of Father Bill’s remarkable call to service? “A quote comes to mind that I use so often in my daily prayers. Although the 13th century mystic Saint Richard of Chichester (1197-1253) actually wrote the reflection, the Broadway musical Godspell popularized it:

Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly, day by day.

It is this call to service that has helped underscore Father Bill’s desire to provide scholarships to seminarians from the Archdiocese of Newark who have a similar calling….even if they don’t follow his distinctive path. Through a charitable remainder trust (CRT) he established with his local community foundation, following his death, Immaculate Conception Seminary will receive annual distributions in perpetuity to support seminarians through the Rev. William P. Lesak Endowed Seminary Fund.

"I've been truly blessed in 45 years of priesthood ordination and I'm reminded by what St. Luke 12:48 said so well: 'To whom much is given, much is expected.'"

At a Glance: Charitable Remainder Trusts

  • Charitable remainder trusts pay income for life or for a term of years to you or others you designate.
  • This type of gift can be funded with any asset: cash, stock, real estate, collectables or an interest in a closely held business.
  • Payments from the trust may increase over time. They can be structured in various ways to meet your needs or the needs of another recipient.
  • Benefits include a charitable income tax deduction. Also, any capital gain associated with assets going into the trust is deferred or forgiven.