Celebrating Our 125th!


Once upon a time….

St. Leo the Great Parish began with immigrants and refugee parishioners.

What are the refugees and immigrants doing today? How are they acclimating to American culture and society?

Back “home”, our refugees and immigrants were farmers, livestock keepers, general domestic servants, and business people. Amongst our Burundis are a doctor, a nurse and some who had their own businesses before the genocide of 1972.

A good amount of our Africans and Guatemalans now have jobs in grounds keeping, working at factories, doing janitorial work, and working in different capacities at restaurants. Some of our Africans who were tailors in their home country continue their trade here. Women also work in the restaurants and hotel housekeeping.

Peace Bags weaved from plastic grocery bags and Peace Beads are created by our Burundi women. Sales from these items enable them to bring in some additional income for their families.

Our Fresh Start Foods community garden and our Hillside Garden provide opportunities for extra income and extra delicious bounty for the dinner table!

Becoming literate in the English language is an extra challenge for any foreigner. It’s a very difficult language to learn! Our refugees go downtown four days a week learning English through LifePoint Solutions. St. Leo provides two weekly opportunities for the Burundis. Grade school children and youth attend public or parochial school and the smaller children are in daycare or stay home with their parents.

Our Thursday Women’s group covers many topics from personal hygiene, household hints, cooking and grocery shopping to ESL, applying for a job, handling currency, and completing government forms. This program was established through Tri- Health when our refugees first arrived and continues.

With little or no access to medical technology in the camps, ailments were overlooked or not tended to. Through the St. Leo Parish Nurse Program, medical advice and connections are invaluable in providing relief for our African families. Additionally, PTSD is prevalent amongst our refugees as a result of the atrocities witnessed in their homeland. Resources to address these issues are made available as well.

In our church liturgy, Burundi and Guatemalan youths as well as adults are becoming more and more active, participating as lectors, servers, Eucharistic ministers, singing in the choir, and directing the prayers services and the men and women’s groups. Transportation to and from St. Leo for activities and Masses was increased last year thanks to a generous grant received to purchase a second passenger van.

We carry on in our calling to share God’s gifts with our parish community and those who are placed in the beacon of St. Leo’s shining light. It is especially through our partnerships with every single individual, groups, parishes, and corporations that we are able to continue walking this path with each other.

Gracias,   Murakoze,  Thank You!