By Ed Destefano
RICHARD C. (Dick) LEACH (August 24, 1927-May 29, 2001): Founder and Chairman of RCL Resources for Christian Living, a division of RCL Enterprises, Inc. Dick dedicated the last forty years of his life to promoting an awareness, understanding and implementation of the vision and teachings of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) of the Catholic Church. Acknowledged as a leading communicator through the use of multi-media, Leach made contributions to adult faith formation, catechist formation, and high school, middle school/junior high, elementary, and early childhood religious education which have become paradigms for contemporary faith formation programs and religious education curriculum serving the Catholic Church in the United States. Pope John Paul II recognized Leach’s contributions by awarding him posthumously the prestigious Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross on March 8, 2002.
Richard C. (Dick) Leach (August 24, 1927-May 29, 2001) was founder and Chairman of RCL Enterprises, Inc. His parents, Bernice Lyons Leach and Joseph P. Leach, lived in Golf, Illinois, where Dick grew up with his brother, Edmund, who was killed on Iwo Jima during World War II. Dick married Rosemary Kearns in 1949. Together they raised nine children and are the proud grandparents of thirty grandchildren.
In 1922 Joseph Leach, then twenty-five years old, was invited by his father-in-law, George Diederich, to open a small printing business in the basement of 4450 N. Ravenswood Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. George Diederich and his brother had previously started a business that sold services to banks. They worked toward achieving that goal by hand-delivering literature that advertised bank services. Joseph Leach called the new printing enterprise Argus Press. While the new printing business initially served the banking operations of Joseph Leach, Leach endeavored to expand Argus Press and canvassed Chicago’s North Side in search of prospective buyers of commercial printing.
In search of opportunities to assure the success of his business, Joseph Leach took a gamble and risked associating himself with the entrepreneur Arthur C. Nielsen, who was just beginning what would become a renowned enterprise. This relationship proved beneficial to both Leach and Nielsen for more than fifty years. Through risk-taking and innovation (during the Depression Argus Press was the only printer in Chicago that never missed taking a prompt payment business discount), Leach continued to grow his printing business. During World War II Argus Press served Scott Radio and S & C Electric Company in meeting their military communications needs. The risk-taking and innovative business strategies of Joseph Leach would one day become hallmarks of his son Dick’s business vision.
In 1941 Dick Leach entered Loyola Academy, Chicago, Illinois, and was a member of Loyola Academy’s first accelerated class, which was a World War II program that enabled a select group of students to complete the course of studies and graduate in three years. Immediately following his graduation from Loyola Academy in 1944, Dick entered Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, and graduated three years later in 1947 with a BA in Philosophy.
Upon graduation Dick, at age nineteen, joined his father as a full-time employee in the family owned and operated printing business. In 1949, following the death of George Diederich, Joseph Leach became the sole owner of Argus Press and formed a partnership with Richard Leach. Two years later Joseph Leach moved his operations from Ravenswood Avenue to a small old converted dairy at 3505 N. Ashland Avenue in Chicago, from which he conducted business, maximizing his limited resources, a characteristic Dick would adopt for himself throughout his life. At that time Argus Press expanded its printing capabilities. During the 1950s Dick became the company’s General Manager. He was responsible for sales and added many advertising agencies and publishers as clients of Argus Press. After ten years of experience in all aspects of the printing field, Dick was given full responsibility for the business.
In 1962 Dick committed his experience and assets to foster the work of the Catholic Church. Dick, an avid follower of the events of Vatican Council II (1962-1965), recognized the need for better communication within the Catholic Church about the Council and its work. After discussing his vision for spreading the work and message of the Council with the president of Loyola University Press, Leach in 1964 launched his work of promoting Vatican Council II by partnering with the Archdiocese of Chicago and producing Study the Liturgy, a set of three audiotapes containing six lectures explaining the liturgical renewal initiated by the Council. Producing and distributing the tapes would eventually lead to other Leach-owned and funded publishing enterprises. These would one day include Argus Communications, DLM, Inc. /Teaching Resources, The Lyons Group, Tabor Publishing, Lyrick Studios, Thomas More Publishing, Christian Classics, Resources for Families, The Vatican II Center, Big Feats Entertainment, Edmundo Productions, and Resources for Christian Living. Dick did everything from product development to running the printing presses to hauling inventory, accompanied by his wife and children, from Chicago to New Orleans, Detroit, or wherever to display the products.
In 1967 Leach expanded the business with the addition of Developmental Learning Materials to support the work of special education by creating, developing, and publishing manipulative materials and classroom aids for early childhood special and bilingual education. One of his own children, who was in kindergarten at the time, had been identified as having special reading needs. Leach became a member of a parent support group and met academicians who were specialists in the area of teaching children with learning disabilities. He discovered a group of teachers who used handmade products to help children with special needs. Having asked why no one was publishing and selling these types of materials, the educators replied that it was simply a lack of funding. In response to this experience, Leach used his assets to support the work of special education educators.
On November 1, 1971 Leach announced that he would move Argus Press, Argus Communications, and Developmental Learning Materials to a 52,000 square foot facility which he would build on a two-acre site at 7440 Natchez Avenue in Niles, Illinois. In 1974 Leach introduced DLM, Inc. The new corporation became the parent organization of Developmental Learning Materials, Argus Communications, and Argus Press. In addition to Leach serving as President and Chief Executive Officer, other officers of the parent organization included Thomas K. Allison, Vice President; John E. Bireley, Treasurer; and F. Vern Lahart, Counsel. Dick, wishing to devote all his energies to creative pursuits and serving the Church, turned the management over to Lahart in 1974.
In the mid-1970s government funding for special education led to the rapid growth of DLM, Inc., and it became the nation’s largest publisher of special education materials. In 1983 DLM, Inc. acquired Teaching Resources, the second largest publisher of special education resources, from the New York Times. When the government began to emphasize the theme of “back to basics” in the early 1990s and was vigorously promoting the mainstreaming of children with special learning needs, Special Education publishing was seriously undermined. As a result Developmental Learning Materials was sold in 1992 to enable it through its new owners to continue developing quality products for special education educators and the children they served. DLM, Inc. was also the first to publish educational software during the advent of personal computers (PCs) in the 1980s.
In 1980 Leach’s businesses, which now also included a sales office and warehouse in the United Kingdom, reached a new level of growth and need for expansion. After searching the Chicago area for facilities that would accommodate the expansion proved futile, Leach moved his companies in 1981 from Niles, Illinois, to Allen, Texas; a city located about twenty miles north of Dallas. The goal of the relocation was the combining of all Leach’s printing and publishing businesses, including printing, editorial, administrative, manufacturing, and warehousing operations, in one facility. To facilitate this expansion, Leach sold Argus Press and his operations in the United Kingdom to key employees.
In Texas Leach founded ColorDymanics in 1994 to expand his operations. ColorDyamics is a fully equipped modern printing facility that has become an award-winning company and the most prestigious printing facility in the Southwest. Leach soon added a broadcast quality video production studio and formed The Lyon’s Group. At this same time Argus Communications began to produce videotapes in the new broadcast studio.
In 1986 the work of Argus Communications was divided, and Tabor Publishing was founded. While Argus Communications continued to develop posters, cards, and other inspirational/social expression products, Tabor Publishing continued the development of religious education and spiritual formation materials for Catholic schools, parishes, and individuals. Tabor would eventually become one of the nation’s premier publishers of early childhood, elementary, junior high/middle school, and high school/youth ministry curriculum, as well as sacrament preparation programs and its Echoes of Faith catechist formation program. It would also develop its award-winning Web site www.FaithFirst.com . Tabor would continue the mission of Argus Communications to adults by providing faith formation resources for dioceses, parishes, families, and individuals by acquiring Thomas More and Christian Classics publishing imprints and Elizabeth Ministries, and establishing the Tabor Center for Families.
Dick’s daughter-in-law, Sheryl Leach, approached him in 1987 with an idea for home videos premised on bringing entertainment and value-based education together for young children, and “Barney and the Backyard Gang” was born. In 1992 the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) entered into a partnership with Leach and launched “Barney & Friends” as a daily feature on nearly 300 stations in the United States. “Barney & Friends,” which was awarded the Emmy in 1994, 1996, 1999, and 2000, was soon televised in more than 100 countries, and a stage production, featured at Radio City Musical Hall in New York City, was produced. Barney videos and books were sold in stores in the United States of America and internationally. With Barney, Dick worked on a literacy program targeted for 70,000 preschools and daycare centers nationwide. This was done in conjunction with the National Center for Family Literacy. “Barney & Friends” remains one of the highest-rated preschool television series. In March 2001 it was sold to HIT Entertainment.
In 1992 DLM, Inc. divested itself of Developmental Learning Materials and sold its instructional materials to Macmillian/McGraw Hill and its assessment materials to Riverside Publishing, a subsidiary of Houghton Mifflin. With this divestiture, the name DLM, Inc. was changed to RCL Enterprises, Inc., which consisted of ColorDynamics (commercial lithography), Argus Communications (social expression), Tabor Publishing (religious education), and The Lyons Group (children’s entertainment).
The success of “Barney & Friends” led Leach in 1995 to launch Lyrick Studios as a producer of quality children’s entertainment properties. Lyrick Studios began the development and production of the television series, “Wishbone.” This daily live-action PBS series, which featured a Jack Russell terrier, aired from 1995 to1998, and dramatized a signature sequence from classic literature and paralleled it with a contemporary story. The “Wishbone” series, which also inspired many books, was nominated for five Emmy Awards and won four, one in 1996 and three in 1997. “Wishbone” was also awarded the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences First Honor Roll of Children’s Programming in 1999, the George F. Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting in 1998, and the Television Critics Association-Best Children’s Show in 1996 and 1997. Lyrick Studios expanded its offerings with the distribution of “Veggie Tales” and the publication of an extensive line of children’s books.
1995-1997 were years of expansion and diversification. Leach purchased the Catholic publishing companies Thomas More Publishing in 1995 and Christian Classics in 1996 to provide resources for adult faith formation. In 1996 Leach also established Resources for Christian Living with the primary mission of continuing to develop religious education curriculum and other resources and he founded and funded The Vatican II Center, which produced Vatican II-The Faithful Revolution. Three years in the making, this landmark contribution to the Church cost $2.5 million to complete. More than ninety-six Council participants and attendees, cardinals and bishops, theologians, clerics, philosophers, celebrities, and ordinary folk were filmed. Production executives and crew traveled to eight countries on three continents to film the five-part series, which in 1999 was broadcast on PBS in abbreviated form.
Dick and his wife, Rosemary, spent five days in Assisi, Italy, in 1997 where they read the Life of Francis by the Franciscan friar Thomas Celano, a contemporary of Francis, and visited the holy places where St. Francis, El Poverello (“The Little Poor Man”), launched his world-changing movement in the thirteenth century – another unique time of change and renewal for the Church. These experiences motivated Dick, who for a long time had had a deep love and admiration for Francis, to fulfill a very personal ambition to share his love for El Poverello as “our only reliable guide to the future.” Dick committed his resources to create a Broadway-quality musical based on the life of St. Francis and to share the inspiration he had gained from the story of the beloved saint with the millions of people who visit Assisi each year.
On May 29, 2000, Dick was in Assisi for the opening night of Francesco, Il Musical that he had both helped write and produce. Francesco, Il Musical, which was based on Dick’s original treatment that was used for the development of the script, was performed in an elaborate, 1000-seat, state-of-the-art theatre built by Dick’s company for the production. His purpose was not simply to honor the saint, but to communicate the message of St. Francis. The show opened to rave reviews in Italy and is a testament to Dick’s love of the saint and the effect that St. Francis has had on the lives of Christians and non-Christians for more than seven centuries. On September 13, 2003, some of Dick’s family traveled to Assisi again to be present for a ceremony making Richard C. Leach an honorary citizen of Assisi.
This moving tribute to St. Francis was preceded by the production of the two-set video series, Francesco’s Friendly World, that was written and produced for children ages two through nine. The first video, The Gifts of Christmas, presents the story of Francis’s love for the Christ-child and the celebration of Christmas, which gave rise to the tradition of the Christmas crèche. The second video, The Last Stone, is an Easter tale that portrays Francis’s commitment to fulfilling his call to rebuild the Church.
The news of Dick Leach’s unexpected death on May 29, 2001, stunned the Leach family, RCL Enterprises, Inc. employees, and the printing/publishing/entertainment industries. Vision, creativity, and impatience for accomplishment were Dick’s trademarks as well as his deep and abiding love of his Creator’s church. On June 21, 2002, Bishop Charles Grahmann, bishop of Dallas, Texas, presented the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, awarded to Dick by Pope John Paul II, to Rosemary Leach and the Leach’s children in the presence of the employees of RCL Enterprises, Inc. who had gathered to honor Dick and remember his legacy to the Church.
Dick’s drive and dedication were deeply rooted in the Saint Ignatius of Loyola tradition of Ad majorem Dei gloriam and in his belief in the parable of the talents. Dick recognized that his many gifts were indeed “gifts” and that much was expected of him. He lived this daily, and had a profound understanding of the words of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Throughout his life, Dick reached out and generously shared with others, especially those in need, what he knew he had received as “a gift.” This included the support of four inner-city struggling schools, an endowment at the university’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, and the funding of the creation and building of Santa Clara, a full service Catholic Community in Dallas that serves both the spiritual and material needs of Hispanic people.
Dick’s stewardship of his treasure, both his spiritual and material blessings, drove him in his life’s work. Richard C. Leach served as a model of evangelization”all the while in the role of a servant of his Church and Christ’s Vicar. This legacy of Dick Leach to the Church and his passion and commitment to contribute to building the Church of the future through the ministry of education is continued today-and will be in the future-by the many employees of RCL-Resources for Christian Living.
Contributions to Christian Education
Richard C. Leach’s entrepreneurial vision and deep faith, his commitment to the mission of the Catholic Church, his enthusiasm for the work of Vatican Council II, and his desire to contribute to the future of the Church led him to work toward the development of religious education products for Catholic parishes, Catholic preschool programs, Catholic elementary schools, Catholic parish religious education programs, Catholic high schools, and Catholic youth ministry programs. Key to the development of these products was Leach’s reaching out to established, well-qualified, and widely recognized Christian educators. To help him achieve this goal, Leach first established Argus Communications in 1964 with the mission to provide a vivid sense of religious values for modern believers (and nonbelievers) and to expand the Church’s outreach to young people. The diversity of materials produced by Leach over the next forty years through his many companies grew to include print, audio, video, broadcast, and Internet materials. These resources, which reached millions, served the teaching mission of the Catholic Church in the areas of adult faith formation, catechist formation, high school, junior high/middle school religious education, elementary religious education, and early childhood religious education.
Leach’s commitment to the development of faith formation and religious education materials for the Catholic Church began with his response to Vatican Council II (1962-1964) and his desire to share and promote the work of the Council. Leach, an avid follower of the events of Vatican Council II, recognized the need for better communication within the Catholic Church to get the story and message out to the people. This led to Leach’s production of a series of audiotapes by theologians and Council Periti. The tapes would serve the Church and other believers and nonbelievers in the United States to come to understand the work of Vatican Council II and its vision for the Catholic Church and the world. Leach’s work as “Evangelist of Vatican II” began.
Launching the project proved more difficult than Leach ever imagined. In the spring of 1963, he sent letters to every expert in Rome that he could identify. All of the letters went unanswered. Discouraged, Leach shelved the project. In the fall of the same year, Leach received a phone call from the Archdiocese of Chicago which was engaged in producing audiotapes that would explain the changes in the liturgy that Vatican II proposed. As a result of this conversation and subsequent meetings with the Archdiocese of Chicago, in 1964 Leach produced Study the Liturgy, a set of three tapes containing six lectures.
Leach prepared an announcement of this initial project and sent it to Council Periti, theologians, biblical scholars, and observers. He proposed that they let him tape the lectures they were routinely presenting on lecture tours throughout the United States while the Council was not in session. The response this time was enthusiastic. Leach arranged for taping the lectures, which were given at Notre Dame University, Fordham University, Georgetown University, and other Catholic institutions. By 1967 Leach had produced a comprehensive line of audiotapes bringing the vision of Vatican II to dioceses, parishes, religious communities, and to countless interested Catholics and non-Catholics across the country.
This initial adventure led Leach to eventually produce more 240 tapes focusing on such themes as the Church, ecumenism, liturgy and the sacraments, the “New Theology,” personal development, religious education, religious life, and Sacred Scripture. Among the many voices heard on the tapes were Barnabas Ahearn CP, Gregory Baum OSA, Daniel Berrigan SJ, Myles Bourke, Raymond Brown, SS, Malcolm Boyd, Joseph Cahill, SJ, Daniel Calahan, Bernard Cooke, Harvey Cox, John Dominic Crossan, Charles Curran, Jean Danielou, Francoise Darcy, Charles Davis, Leslie Dewart, Godfrey Diekmann OSB, James DiGiacomo SJ, William Duggan SJ, Joseph Fitzmeyer SJ, Thomas Francoeur, Viktor Frankl, Irving Greenberg, Bernard Haring CSSR, Rosemary Haughton, Eugene Kennedy, Alfred McBride OPraem, John McCall SJ, Kilian McDonnell OSB, Edna McDonagh, Hugh McElwain OSM, John L. McKenzie SJ, Martin Marty, Johannes Metz SJ, Jurgen Moltmann, George Montague SM, Thomas Moore OP, Gabriel Moran, Roland Murphy OCarm, John Courtney Murray SJ, John Nelson, Walter Ong SJ, Albert Outler, Quenten Quesnell SJ, Karl Rahner SJ, Rosemary Reuther, Peter Riga, John Robinson, Francis Borgia Rothleubber OSF, Edward Schilebeeckx OP, Marc Tannenbaum, Aldo Tos, Arnold Toynbee and Adrian Van Kaam Caap.
From 1968 to 1972 sales of the Vatican II audiotapes declined, but Leach continued bringing renowned Catholic personalities into Catholic parishes, church libraries, Catholic schools, and Catholic homes around the country. He continued to provide audio, visual, and print materials that promoted and supported interreligious dialogue and the diversity of adult faith formation and youth religious education programs in Catholic parishes and schools. Leach worked to achieve this mission by continuing to reach out and bring to people the expertise of a diversity of both theologians and Christian educators as well as numerous other writers on spiritual and human growth issues that are inextricably connected with one’s growing in their knowledge of and living their faith. The list included, among many others, Loretta Brady, David B. Campbell, Joseph Champlin, James DiGiacomo SJ, Doris Donnelly, Hugh Downs, Regis Duffy OFM, Avery Dulles SJ, Vincent Dwyer OSCO, Mitch and Kathy Finley, Charles Gallagher, Benedict Groeschel OFMCap, Thomas Groome, Most Reverend Thomas Gumbleton, Maria Harris, Sydney J. Harris, Eugene Kennedy, Mark Link SJ, Richard McBrien, George McCauley SJ, Ruth McDonell IHM, Thomas Merton OSCO, Basil Pennington OCSO, John Powell SJ, Mary Perkins Ryan, Donald Senior CP, John Shea, Sydney B. Simon, Gerard Sloyan, Joanmarie Smith CSF, Carroll Stuhlmueller CP, Edward Watkin and John Westerhoff.
It was at this time that Leach began a partnership with Mark Link SJ and John Powell SJ. Their written, video, and audio contributions to Christian education not only would become widely used in this country and would be translated into several languages and selling millions of copies worldwide. Powell’s writings sold over 20 million copies. From 1975 through 1985 Link wrote and developed the Bible study series which included These Stones Will Shout: A New Voice for the Old Testament, The Seventh Trumpet: The Good News Proclaimed, and Lord, Who Are You: The Story of Paul and the Early Church. Link also wrote and developed the fourteen-part video series “Experiencing Jesus: His Story” and “Experiencing the Mass.” Leach and Link would continue working together throughout the 1990s producing a wide variety of resources for faith formation and religious education for the Catholic Church. More than 700,000 of Link’s books have been distributed in over 800 prisons around the United States by the group Victory 2000. Victory 200 was founded in 1997 by Jim and Lucy Carney of Winnetka, Illinois. With the help of six other parishioners of Sts. Faith, Hope, and Charity Parish, the Carney’s and have sent over 1.5 million spiritual books to individual prisoners at 844 correctional institutions nationwide.
In response to Vatican Council II’s teachings on respect for and understanding of other Christian and non-Christian religions, Leach produced several groundbreaking works, namely, Major World Religions and Religion In Human Culture. Major World Religions (1977) was a seven-volume series written by prominent teachers, each of whom had personal experience within a featured culture and tradition. The series explores the teachings and practices of seven major world religions. Titles include: African Primal Religions by Robert Cameron Mitchell, PhD, Buddhism by Donald K. Swearer, PhD, Christianity by Howard Clarke Kee, PhD, Hinduism by Paul Younger, PhD and Susanna Oommen Younger, Islam by Isma’il Al Faruqi, PhD, Judaism by Samuel T. Lachs, PhD and Saul P. Wachs, PhD, and Religion in China by Richard C. Bush, PhD.
Religion in Human Culture (1978) was a six-part series of print and audiovisual materials on the major religious traditions of the world-the Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Jewish traditions. The sixth part was a unit on religious expression, which developed and illustrated a model used to identify and understand meanings in any tradition. Religion in Human Culture was developed by the World Religious Curriculum Development Center, a project of St. Louis Park High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota with a federal grant under Title III/IV, Part C, of the Elementary-Secondary School Act and grants from the Northwest Area Foundation. It was field-tested for four years with more than 2,000 students by 40 teachers in 8 states. In 1989 Leach would add Journey of Discovery: A Resource Manual for Catholic/Jewish Dialogue by Rabbi Alfred Wolf and Monsignor Royale M. Vadakin, General Editors under the imprint of Tabor Publishing.
In 1986, as the product line serving Catholic education was growing, Leach founded Tabor Publishing to focus on that part of the mission of Argus Communications. Argus Communications, for the next 25 years, would focus its work on creating posters and mini-posters, postcards, greeting cards, wall banners, magnets, and Pass-It-On message cards as teacher support and personal resources. In 2001 Argus Communications ceased operations as a Leach company and was sold to Trend Enterprises, Inc., an educational company founded in 1968 committed to the development of teacher-created products “to educate the children of the world by making learning fun.”
Tabor Publishing (1986-1997) / Resources for Christian Living (1997 to present)
Initially, Tabor Publishing had offices in both Valencia, California, and in Allen, Texas, with the administrative offices in Texas and the editorial and marketing offices in California. Tabor, like Argus Communications, would continue Leach’s commitment to providing a vehicle for sharing the thoughts of outstanding Catholic theologians and educators. Among those added to the long list of Christian educators were Art Baranowski, Patrick Brennan, Patricia Brennan-Nichols, Francis J. Buckley SJ, Walter Burghardt SJ, Mary Joyce Calnan, Louis J. Cameli, Andrew Costello, Dolores Curren, Maria de la Cruz SH, Don Kimball, Anthony de Mello SJ, Kate Dooley OP, Robert D. Duggan, Richard Fragomeni, Maureen Gallagher, Catherine Garcia-Prats, Joseph Garcia-Prats, Madeleine Gervais, Jerry Goebel, Greer Gordon, Carol A. Gura, Marlene Halpin OP, James Healey, Bill Huebsch, Jean Marie Hiesberger, Robert J. Hater, Jacquie Jambor, Mary Beth Jambor, Arthur Jones, Eileen McGrath, Frank McNulty, Mary Benet McKinney OSB, Joseph McShane SJ, Anne Marie Mongoven OP, Michael Moynahan SJ, Joan Mueller, Evette Nelson, Don Neumann, Ronald J. Nuzzi, Timothy E. O’Connell, William J. O’Malley SJ, Dee Ready, John Roberto, Brian Reynolds, Kieran Sawyer SSND, Anna Scally, George Smiga, Anthony Tambasco, David Thomas, Clarence Thomson, James Turro and James Wilde.
In addition to partnering with individuals, Leach also supported and partnered with national and local organizations committed to educating people in the faith of the Church. Some of these are Diocese of Baker, Oregon; Genesis Project; Georgetown University Institute of Theology; Hispanic Telecommunications Network; Los Angeles Catholic/Jewish Dialogue; National Catholic Education Association (NCEA); National Catholic Vocation Council; National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL); Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of San Antonio; Society Devoted to the Sacred Heart; and with several departments of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), namely, Department of Education, National Advisory Committee on Adult Education, National Advisory Committee for Catechesis with Hispanics, and U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for the Third Millennium.
The combination of Leach’s vision and drive and personal resources and the resources of numerous Catholic educators and Catholic educational groups made Tabor Publishing a leader in Catholic education, providing resources for both the English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities within the Catholic Church. What follows is a brief summary of some of the key resources provided to the Catholic Church by Leach through Tabor Publishing/RCL Resources for Christian Living, and the other companies that were born from Tabor, namely Thomas More, Christian Classics, Center for Families, and The Vatican II Center.
Religious Education Curriculum
In 1990 Leach began his work of developing a complete religious education curriculum for Catholic parishes and Catholic schools. Leach and Tabor Publishing partnered with Sister Anne Marie Mongoven, OP, PhD, a member of the committee responsible for writing the 1979 National Catechetical Directory, Sharing the Light of Faith. The result of this partnership was Living Waters (grades 1-6) in 1992, and Image (grade 7) and Quest (grade 8) in 1993, a comprehensive print and audio-assisted program for Catholic parishes and Catholic schools, which was produced from 1992 through 1994. During this same time period, Leach also continued to seek out and partner with early childhood specialists to expand Tabor’s / RCL’s resources in this key area of Catholic education. He partnered with Judy Deckers, Carol Joy Cincerelli, HM, and Barbara Kay Bowie, EdD, and in 1994 Tabor introduced Children of God, an early childhood program for 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds.
The year 1994 was a turning point in the history of religious education in the Catholic Church in the United States with the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) established the Ad Hoc Committee to Oversee the Use of the Catechism to review all elementary, junior high/middle school, and high school curriculum for their conformity to the Catechism and to assure the inclusion of more than 375 doctrinal points in Catholic religious education curriculum. Leach changed Tabor’s name to Resources for Christian Living (RCL) and responded to the bishops’ request that Catholic religious education curriculum provide a clearer sense of Catholic identity and Catholic literacy by producing Our Catholic Identity: Catechism Workbooks (1997), a series of handbooks for grades 1-8 based on the four pillars of the Catechism. These booklets were the groundwork for RCL’s innovative Faith First kindergarten through eighth-grade program, which RCL introduced in 2000-2001. To support the growing number of families educating their children at home the Faith First series also developed and produced Faith First at Home (2001) by Jacquie Jambor and Mary Beth Jambor, which guided families to work with one child or two or more children of several ages simultaneously.
With Faith First, Leach and RCL became innovators once again and introduced into Catholic religious education in the United States the use of the educationally-proven spiral learning method. The spiral learning model replaced the thematic model (which focused on a particular content theme, such as the Church or the Eucharist, on a particular grade level, and had guided Catholic religious education for more than 25 years) with an age-appropriate presentation of key doctrinal elements on every grade level. Using the spiral method in Catholic religious education curriculum proved so effective that other leading publishers of Catholic religious education programs soon adopted a similar approach.
The mid-1990s saw the explosion of the Web, and Leach harnessed the power of the Web and put it at the service of Catholic religious education. In August of 1997 RCL launched the completely free Web site FaithFirst.com and put technology at the service of Catholic religious education 24 hours a day/7 days a week/365 days a year. Soon this highly acclaimed Web site was supporting millions of students, parents, and Catholic religion teachers and catechists, providing them with reinforcement activities and additional information. In 2003 the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership awarded FaithFirst.com its Technology Award.
Leach also continued to work with leading high school teachers and youth ministers to produce Path Through Catholicism (1991), Challenge (1993), and Path Through Scripture: New Interactive Edition (1995) by Mark Link, SJ; Building Your Own Conscience (1991) and The Sacraments: Rites of Conversion (1994) by William J. O’Malley, SJ; Choose Life, Choose Love: Sex and Catholic Youth (1991) by Kiernan Sawyer, SSND; Path Through Christian Living (1994) by John Powell, SJ; Catholic & Capable (1997) by Mike Carotta; and the four-book series Understanding the Catechism (1998) by Michael Pennock, Charles Chesnavage, and Thomas Ruhland.
Leach funded and developed curriculum not only for children and youth but also for catechists and religion teachers. In 1996 Leach partnered with the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership (NCCL) to develop and produce Echoes of Faith, a basic-level, video-assisted (VHS) resource for the formation and enrichment of catechists in Catholic parishes and Catholic schools. Leach placed the resources of Tabor/RCL at the service of NCCL to help them create and develop this groundbreaking resource, which took more than three years to complete. Echoes’ 13 video-assisted modules teach and demonstrate effective catechetical approaches, methods, and theology, and are used in more than 140 dioceses throughout the United States as the foundation of their basic catechist certification program.
Other print resources produced by Leach included Resources for Religion Teachers, a six-book set of practical teaching tips from veteran teachers and catechists, including Helping Kids Live Their Faith: Service Projects that Make a Difference (1999) by Mary Beth Jambor; Kids Get Stressed Too: Understanding What’s Going On and How to Help (1999) by Eileen McGrath, PhD, The Faith-Filled Classroom: Top 10 Ideas that Really Work (1999) by Jacquie Jambor and others, Creative Crafts For All Seasons: Projects that Help Kids Learn (1999) by Anne Campbell and others, How Do I Talk to God: Prayers for the School Year (1999) by Barbara Gargiulo, and Teaching Kids the Basics of Liturgy; Making the Ritual More Meaningful (2000) by Robert D. Duggan, STD.
Video/print resources included Helping Children (and everyone else) Pray (1990) by Marlene Halpin, OP, Challenging Young People to Think (1991) and Internalizing the Faith (1991) by William J. O’Malley, SJ, Exploring Bible Stories (1991) and Exploring Biblical Humor (1991) by Michael Moynahan, SJ, and Seeds of Promise/Seeds of Faith: Vision and Themes of the General Directory for Catechesis (2001), developed and produced in collaboration with the United States Catholic Conference, Department of Education.
Christian Initiation and Sacramental Preparation Resources
From its very beginning Tabor Publishing/RCL Resources for Christian Living provided the Church with curriculum to support its work of preparing its members, children, youth, and adults for celebration of the sacraments. These resources included Welcome Home!, Welcome to the Table!, Welcome to the Way!, Welcome to the Family! (1989), a four-part sacrament preparation program for First Communion, First Penance, and Confirmation that was enhanced by the video series Oak Street Chronicles and Anxious Hearts; The Catechumenate for Children (1991) by Donald A. Neumann, a two-part video/print resource; New Life: A Parish Celebrates Infant Baptism (1995), a video/print resource produced in partnership with Liturgy Training Publications; Foundations in Faith (1997) by Bob Duggan STD, Carol A. Gura, Rita Ferrone, Gael Gensler, Steve Lanza, Donna Steffen, and Maureen Kelly, a comprehensive series of resources for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) based on the three-year liturgical cycle. The series includes participant handbooks, catechist manuals, a program director’s manual, a resource book for the period of purification and enlightenment and period of mystagogy, and handbooks for inquirers, sponsors, catechists, coordinators, and priests.
Leach also produced resources for the Hispanic-Latino community within the Catholic Church in the United States. These resources included Los Sacramentos: Signos de Amor (1990), a video/print series on Catholic doctrine on the sacraments for Hispanic adults and families by Maria de la Cruz, SH and Francis J. Buckley, SJ that was revised in 1994-1996 in collaboration with the Hispanic Telecommunications Network into three six-part video series, Asi Vivimos Porque Creemos (1994), Los Sacramentos: Por los Frutos Nos Conoceran (1995), and Los Diez Mandamientos (1996). Other significant contributions by Leach to the efforts of providing religious education resources to the Catholic Hispanic community included Nuestra Identidad Católica: Cuaderno para el Catechismo (1994), a series of eight workbooks which presented the key teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for children in grades 1 through 8; Semillas de promesa, Semillas de fe (1997), a video/print resource developed and produced in collaboration with the United States Catholic Conference, Department of Education that presented the vision and themes of the General Directory for Catechesis; and Libro para Familias (2001) a series of booklets for kindergarten through sixth-grade students by Marie K. Rein, SSJ and Mary Beth Jambor for families whose children are using the Faith First curriculum.
Parish/Adult Faith Formation Resources
Tabor Publishing and the Thomas More and Christian Classics imprints were the primary vehicles through which Leach supported the Catholic Church’s ministry of parish adult faith formation. Among the resources Leach provided the Church through these companies were Church and Ministry (1987), a five-part video and print resource presenting an explanation of models of the Church and Mary (1987) by Anthony J. Tambasco, a three-part video and print resource on the development of Marian theology and its significance for addressing social justice and the role of women in the Church and in society; Priming the Pump: Team Training for Adult Religious Education (1989); Catholic Vision (1990), a 31-part overview of the basic themes of Catholic doctrine by Mark Link SJ; The Parish Council and Pastoral Leadership (1991) by Greer Gordon; Overcoming Barriers for Spiritual Growth (1991) by Dolores Curran; Finding Yourself on the Enneagram (1991) by Loretta Brady; Matthew, Mark, Luke and You (1996) by William J. O’Malley SJ; The Faith Connection (1997), a weekly resource for parishes based on the Sunday readings that fosters Catholic identity and makes the connection between understanding and living the faith; Unlocking the Secrets of the Shroud (1997) by Gilbert R. Lavole, MD; The Mystery of God (1997), a three-part video series: Father, Jesus, and Spirit, a modern telling of the story of God built on the first pillar of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that celebrates the basic truths of the Christian Church; Educating for Life: A Spiritual Vision for Every Teacher and Parent (1998) by Thomas Groome; Open Wide the Doors (1998) narrated by Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory and Maureen Kelly, a video resource for the 2000 Jubilee developed and produced with the U.S. Bishops’ Secretariat for the Third Millennium.
The Vatican II Center
In 1994 Dick established “The Vatican II Center” and began the vast undertaking of the five-hour, five-part historical documentary, Vatican II-The Faithful Revolution. Three years in the making, this landmark contribution to the Church cost $2.5 million to complete. More than ninety-six Council participants and attendees, cardinals and bishops, theologians, clerics, philosophers, celebrities, and ordinary folk were filmed. Production executives and crew traveled to eight countries on three continents to film the series, which in 1999 was broadcast on PBS in an abbreviated form. The five parts of Vatican II-The Faithful Revolution present the story of the beginnings of Vatican II and the extraordinary life and legacy of Blessed Pope John XXIII; the election of Pope Paul VI and the impact of the Council on the Church and the entire world in the areas of liturgy, laity, and ecumenism; the influence of Vatican II on civil rights movements from Poland to Africa and throughout the world and the Catholic Church’s renewed dialog with Protestants and the Jewish people; the impact of the Council on such issues as peace and justice activism, the expanded role of the laity in the Church, dissent within the Church over sexual ethics, the nature of marriage, and other contemporary issues; and how the legacy of Vatican II lived on in Pope John Paul II.
Leach’s commitment to spreading the word of Vatican II continued with the publishing of Destination Vatican II and Vatican II in Plain English. Destination Vatican II is an interactive CD-ROM that enables the user to travel throughout the city of Rome and learn about Vatican II through interviews with more than 130 Council experts, video clips, archival photographs of the Council, and more than 4,000 pages of informative text, including the sixteen official documents of the Council as well as daily accounts of the council in the Council Daybooks and Xavier Rynne’s four volumes of Council commentary. In addition, Destination Vatican II contains biographies of key Vatican II figures, a list of Council attendees, and a “virtual Vatican” wherein one can explore various Vatican II related locations in Rome. Vatican II in Plain English is a series of three books, The Council, The Constitutions, and The Decrees and Declarations, that paraphrases the documents of the Council and makes the history, message of the Council documents, and consequences of Vatican II available to everyone.
Center for Families
To continue the work of providing resources for families that Leach began with Bridging the Gap Between Parents and Teens (1990), a nine-video (VHS) series fostering communication and understanding between parents and teens, he partnered with Maureen Gallagher to develop and produce Family Time, print and video-assisted lectionary-cycle-based (1993/94 Cycle A/B, 1994/95 Cycle B/C, 1995/1996 Cycle C/A) resources for family catechesis. Leach also founded the Center for Families with David Thomas PhD and Mary Joyce Calnan. Among the resources produced by this center were Catechism of the Catholic Church: Familystyle (1997), Faith Familystyle: Home Is Where the Heart Is (1997), and Faith Familystyle: Home Is Where Prayer Begins (1998).
For 40 years Richard C. Leach was a major contributor of print, audio, video, computer, and Internet resources. In those years the companies founded and funded by Leach developed and produced more than 500 resources that supported the religious education and faith formation ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States.
BA in Philosophy, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, 1947
Honors and Awards
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross, awarded posthumously by Pope John Paul II, March 8, 2002
Doctor of Humane Letters, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois, May 1, 1993
Daniel J. Lord, SJ Award, awarded for distinguish service to young people, Loyola Academy, Chicago, Illinois, 1993
Alpha Signma Nu, 1948
1993-2001 Chairman and Founder, RCL Enterprises, Inc.
1993-2001 Founder and Chairman, Resources for Christian Living
1984-2001 Founder and Chairman, ColorDynamics
1986-1993 Founder and Chairman, Tabor Publishing
1969 Vice President, Printing Industry of Illinois
1967-1992 Founder and President, Developmental Learning Material
1962-2001 Founder and Chairman, Argus Communications
1947-1970 President, Argus Press, Niles, Illinois
Ed DeStefano is the Executive Director of Editorial for RCL Resources of Christian Living. Ed has worked in the writing and development of catechetical materials for over 30 years. He has worked for RCL, formerly Tabor Publishing since 1990. At that time he joined with Dick Leach in the development Living Waters and Image and Quest, a catechetical program for grade 1-8. Ed has written Our Catholic Identity a series of workbooks presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church for youth in grades 1-8 and has served as the Executive and General Editor of the RCL’s catechetical series Faith First and Faith First Legacy.
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