Why is this semi-retired publisher so high on being a Catholic? Michael Leach’s Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question, published by Loyola Press last March, builds on his previous bestseller, I Like Being Catholic, co-edited with Therese J. Borchard. That was a collection of other people’s stories, but his new book reveals his incredibly moving and persuasive personal story.
Mike, now 70, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Book Publishers Association in 2007. This Chicago native, who now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, was ordained a priest in 1966 but requested and received laicization three years later so that he could marry.
Now after 41 years of marriage to Vickie Jacobi, Mike still can’t believe his good fortune in finding a woman whose life theme is gratitude. That’s true even though seven years ago she was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. (Mike devotes one of the book’s chapters to her story and refers to her frequently.)
For his first job in the “real” world, Mike turned for advice to Father Andrew Greeley, whom he had met at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. Mike knew he wanted to work in publishing because “I love books.” Back then, Father Greeley was the prolific author of Catholic nonfiction; more recently,
he’s known for his novels. (Mike devotes a chapter in this book to the priest, now recovering from a head injury.)
So Greeley wrote to a number of publishers on Mike’s behalf, but no one would hire him because he had no experience. But Mike persevered because “Andy believed in me, and Vickie loved me, so I knocked on every door.” Just before his money ran out, he was hired by Seabury Press, owned by the Episcopal Church.
The rest, as they say, is history. Mike went on to become the publisher of The Crossroad Publishing Company and later of Orbis Books (both are Catholic publishing houses). He has published thousands of boo