Father Sava Stephen Leida was born in New York City's Borough of Manhattan during the post-WWII baby boom. He has wonderful memories of his earliest years living at the family homestead in the rural Pocono Mountains of eastern Pennsylvania. He is the older of two brothers.
The family moved west during the great “rust-belt to sun-belt” migration of the early sixties, settling in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where their father worked as an engineer and their mother as a schoolteacher.
Stephen was educated in the Tulsa public schools, then earned a bachelor of arts degree from Oklahoma State University. There he met his wife Mary, who was completing a graduate degree in biology. After their marriage, they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where their son and only child, Johann (Hans), was born. Stephen earned a Master of Divinity degree from Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary, while Mary pursued post-doctoral work at the University of Minnesota medical school. Stephen then served as pastor of a small Lutheran parish for four years.
In 1986, Stephen resigned from the Lutheran ministry and the Leida family began the process of conversion to the faith of their distant ancestors—the faith of the ancient, undivided Orthodox Catholic Church. Becoming catechumens of the Orthodox Church, they learned the Orthodox Christian faith and way of life, and were received into Orthodoxy at St Thomas Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sioux City, Iowa the following year. Dr. Mary and Stephen both worked for many years at Morningside College in Sioux City — she as a Professor of Biology, and later as an administrator, and he as a member of the Information Services (I.T.) department.
Stephen learned the Orthodox services by standing among the readers and chanters at St. Thomas Church. In 1994, he received the tonsure as a church Reader. He completed the St. Stephen’s Course of Studies in Orthodox Christian Theology through the Antiochian House of Studies. He was further prepared for ordination by his spiritual father and mentor, Archpriest Thomas Begley.
Stephen was ordained to the Holy Diaconate in March, 2003 by His Grace Bishop Basil of Wichita, receiving the name “Sava” after Saint Sava Nemanjić, the Enlightener and first Archbishop of the Serbian Church (feast day January 14/27).
Father Sava served St. Thomas Church as a deacon for three years. He was ordained to the Holy Priesthood by Bishop Basil in 2006 and assigned as the second priest at St Thomas Church in Sioux City, serving together with another mentor and teacher, Archpriest Paul Hodge.
In December, 2008, Father Sava was "loaned" to the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver and appointed by His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah to serve as the presiding Priest of Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
On May 26, 2017, Father Sava was incardinated as a member and Priest of the Holy Metropolis of Denver, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and formally assigned as Proistamenos of Transfiguration Church.
Presvytera Mary assists Father Sava in the parish ministry as a chanter, having retired from her position as Professor of Biology and Dean for Advising at Morningside College.
Father Sava and Presvytera Mary have been blessed with three grandsons, Levi, Sam, and Miles, who live with their parents, Dr. Hans and Sarah Leida, in Edina, Minnesota. Hans, a mathematician, is a principal in an actuarial consulting firm. Sarah is a senior technical writer with a medical equipment company.
On October 7, 2018, His Eminence Metropolitan Isaiah elevated Father Sava to the offikion (honorary rank) of Protopresbyter during the Hierarchical Liturgy as we celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of the charter of our parish.