Mitragyna Speciosa

332 West 23rd Street, New York City, NY 10011 | 212-929-1010        

The Leo House Blog

News, Events and More
3 Jan

Winter 2022 Newsletter

Welcome to the Winter 2022 Newsletter written by our very own Sister Marilyn. To read a pdf version with photos, click here. Stay up-to-date on everything that is happening at The Leo House of New York City. Learn about improvements we’re completing to improve your visit with us. Hear about special guests who have touched our lives and our hearts during their stay. We love our guests and we hope you love staying with us at The Leo House.

The Door is Open!

The Leo House is open for business.

The many months of closure starting on March 25, 2020 took a heavy toll on the Leo House staffing, on its current financial picture, and the future looked grim. Possible disaster was at stake and closure was unthinkable.

Despite the dismal reality that existed here, in the city of New York, state-wide, and nationally, tiny rays of goodness and kind written notes were sent to us and were brilliant signs of Hope. It was like all the angels in heaven, starting with Saint Raphael, our patron, were hovering in our midst and watching out for us. 

Following are short messages that arrived along with contributions; they inspired us greatly:

  • Stayed at Leo House March 2019. Fabulous! Best place to stay in NYC.
  • I stayed at Leo House on the recommendation of a dear deceased friend who said it was a special place and she was right! I’m not a religious person, but I’d say that Leo House resonates with “really good vibes.” I can’t wait to come back to NYC and stay there again.
  • I do hope that someday I’ll be able to visit again as I enjoyed the accommodations there at Leo House. I pray especially that visitors to NYC may continue to experience the Catholic hospitality that you offer! 
  • How is everything at Leo House? Hope your guest list is full and you are busy again as you used to be. Please know we appreciate all you do for us now and in the past. 
  • Hello Leo House! I hope that your hotel survives during the pandemic. It is so old-school and wonderful to visit in NYC. The chapel is magical! My mum (now 89) and I have great memories of staying there in Dec 2019. 
  • I was blessed to be able to stay there in early March 2020 and I will certainly continue to pray that your ministry of providing affordable rooms and kind service to the weary traveler will carry on. 
  • I have enjoyed each stay I have had at The Leo House immensely! The folks at the front desk are all exceptional and always made me feel welcome and at home. 
  • A donation for my “home-away-from-home” The Leo House.
  • It’s safe and clean with a fantastic breakfast.

Finally, this short gem arrived in Feb 2021:

  • I will count it as good news if you don’t have room for me the next time I make a reservation! 

Interesting enough, it was just three months later in May 2021 that business picked up and the number of guests arriving each day increased. The feature directly below tells of the group that made all the difference.

Summer Whites & Music in the Air

The weekend of May 16-17, the shine of the white uniforms worn by a group of 30, yes 30, cadets from the Naval Academy in Annapolis was a great sign saying to The Leo House, “You’re Back in Business!” And summer was still a few months away! 

Navy Chaplain, Fr. Paul Kostka, from the Archdiocese for Military Services of the USA, led the group, arranged for their stay at The Leo House, and presided at Sunday Mass for them on May 16th. The Leo House Chapel was crowded with cadets in their summer whites, and their prayerful participation exemplary.

That same weekend a young woman was a guest, bursting with high energy and flair. She was a NY resident waiting to get an apartment repaired, and was originally from Brazil. She possessed exceptional talent in music and asked if there was anywhere private outdoors where she could record music. There was a space in the open air on a rooftop where she unpacked her own recording equipment: headphones, cords, cables, recorder, mics, and amps. She sang and recorded songs in Portuguese, which in turn she sent to her Dad and to DJs in Brazil to be distributed to radio stations around the country. 

The Family Room

A family from a small town in the Midwest spent a weekend in New York in early spring 2021 as well. The Leo House was known to them because a number of years previous, Mom had been with a group of friends staying here; they were strong ‘harriers’ who ran and finished the New York City Marathon. 

The family had traveled from their home in WI to upstate NY, and toured the new campus where the oldest child, a high school graduate, would be a new freshman. It was not easy leaving her there, but they were so proud that she’s a new cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Messy is Good

The Little Free Library here at The Leo House grew and more shelving was needed. A shelving unit was found that fit nicely in the narrow space between the wall and the phone booths. Plus, a rolling three-tier cart was also acquired and has been placed under one of the windows in the same room. Its top shelf holds travel/tour guides, on the second are books printed in other languages, and the third holds over-sized books that weigh a lot. The ‘Take a book – leave a book’ theme keeps the library fairly maintenance free, but on occasion it requires oversight. Messy shelves is a good sign that the library is being used; books are there for guests to read, enjoy, and then find more.


Hank Vosswinkel – Leo House Board of Directors

Hank Vosswinkel
Henry Vosswinkel

Mr. Henry Vosswinkel, was affectionately known as Hank. He joined The Leo House Board of Directors in 2001. He was a faithful member and served as Treasurer of the Board until 2021. 

Hank passed away on Saturday, October 16, 2021. A Mass of Christian Burial took place on October 23 followed by a burial in Ridgefield, CT.

Sister Bertha Bumann CSA – Sister of Saint Agnes

Sister Bertha Bumann
Sister Bertha Bumann CSA

From 1998 until 1999, Sister Bertha Bumann CSA, was a Minister of Hospitality here at The Leo House. She is remembered vividly by staff for her compassion, her thoughtful attention to others, her prayerful stance and outlook, and her funny bone!

Between 1961 and 1982 she had been a missionary presence in Nicaragua along with other Sisters of Saint Agnes. She served as a teacher, was responsible for CSA Leadership, and for assisting young Nicaraguan women in joining the Congregation of Sisters of Saint Agnes. 

Sister Bertha passed away on October 4, 2021 at Saint Francis Home in Fond du Lac, WI. 

The Book of Remembrance

The names of both Hank Vosswinkel and Sister Bertha Bumann have been inscribed in The Book of Remembrance here at The Leo House. The Book of Remembrancce was born last year and is located near the entrance to the Chapel. Guests and staff may add the names of family members and friends who have passed away during the year. 

The deceased whose names are recorded will be remembered all of November during all Masses and in all prayers here in The Leo House Chapel.

Also recorded in the Book of Remembrance are the names of those who were remembered by contributors to The Leo House. Donations were given as Memorials for them. 

Ongoing Improvements

Equipment in use constantly for years on end eventually needs replacement. We use our kitchen stove every day when preparing hot foods for breakfast. An ice machine is a welcome sight after a hot afternoon in the sun and a vending machine provides small snacks when hunger pains strike. 

A New Kitchen Range

The Leo House Kitchen Range
Our 95 year old kitchen range.

The large kitchen range located in the first floor kitchen was a good part of the reason why breakfast is so highly rated at The Leo House. Large quantities of scrambled eggs were cooked while pancakes were being prepared and bacon and sausages were being heated. Literally, we always have ‘many irons in the fire.’ After 95 years of use, it was replaced last winter in 2020.

A New Ice Machine

The ice machine was making a lot of noise, but no ice, in the middle of summer, no less. Just when its use was needed most, it stopped functioning and was rapidly replaced in July 2021. 

A New Vending Machine

As he was leaving the Vending Machine Room, a guest was overheard describing the experience of trying to buy a soda: “This is like Las Vegas, you put your money in a machine, sometimes you win, but the rest of the time, nothing!” Candy bars, chips, and cookies are popular all the time, so a vending machine is in use 24/7. Eventually after days, weeks, months, and even years of use and it fails to work the machine definitely needs repair or replacement. A new vending machine is on order and will soon replace the one worn out!

WiFi and Cable

Another ongoing project is upgrading the WiFi system. Verizon is installing wiring and cables throughout the entire Leo House. Stronger WiFi and more TV channels will be available when installation is complete. 

By Spring 2022, one of our guest rooms will be compliant with the American Disabilities Act. Renovations for this ADA project are ongoing and quite costly. We greatly appreciate any contributions to assist with these renovations to the guest room. 

Legacy Gifts

As described above, The Leo House is undergoing major improvements and renovations. A generous donor can go a step further in helping defray the costs by considering a donation made a part of family estate planning. 

  • Include The Leo House as a beneficiary in a will. 
  • Designate a direct donation from a RMD if one is 70 years old or more. 
  • Request in funeral arrangements that memorials be a donation to The Leo House, in lieu of flowers.

Along with the physical sending of The Leo House Winter 2022 Newsletter, we enclosed a business reply envelope that can be used to send a contribution to The Leo House. You can also learn about how we use donations at The Leo House or send a donation via our website by clicking this link. A new approach is the U.S. Pontifical Society website: under “Guest House that Welcomes the World.”

For contributions of $5,000 or more, names of donors will be added to a special “Circle of Donors” plaque.

“Friends Like You are God’s Way of Taking Really Good Care of Us”

Thanksgiving Food Drive

The Leo House continues to sponsor a Thanksgiving Food Drive. Guests and Staff are invited to add to the collection of non-perishable food items which after being collected are given to a Food Program sponsored by a nearby parish. St. John the Baptist Church on 31st Street was most appreciative of the food collected during the food drive in 2019. When a hurricane destroyed the infrastructure of Puerto Rico, food became extremely scarce. Luckily someone traveling to PR was able to transport several large suitcases of non-perishable food collected here; in turn hungry people were fed.

Advent, Christmas and Happy New Year

Let us close this Winter 2022 Newsletter by wishing you all a blessed Advent and Christmas to all, and as the year 2021 draws to a close, a Happy, Safe and Healthy New Year to all Friends of The Leo House.