Celebrating Our 125th!


Once upon a time….

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

Many ask why refugees and immigrants come to the United States.  In sharing the story of our Guatemalans, the answers are the same as the Burundis – and are most probably the same answers your own ancestors who came at one time or another would offer.

In speaking directly with one of our parishioners who has been in the United States for almost 12 years, and as a representative of our Latino community, one of the main reasons for moving here is “for a better life for our families.”  Living in a Third World country, it is difficult to raise and educate the children.  In Guatemala over 64% of people do not work so there are no jobs to support the family.  The people like to work and feel productive and useful but there are no jobs.  There is government oppression.  It is a very difficult place to live and raise a family–raising them without a future.”

Another tremendously important reason is their belief that God has a purpose and “feel it’s why he sent us here – to evangelize others and share our faith and have a new life. It is a new life God offers to us.”  ‘Underground’ people here don’t know about the gospel so our Latino community has opportunities to spread the gospel and communicate to those not affiliated with a church. Through St. Leo, they are welcomed and have a home to pray and give thanks.

What are our immigrants’ feelings about the United States of America?  “We are really, really thankful, really happy to believe in a future for our families and to celebrate our faith. It is the Land of Promise for us and we are really very happy and thankful because this country in so many cases opens the doors for so many people – not only us but for others. We are really thankful; we find people are really good people.  We believe in the country. We are a little bit concerned as everyone is about the economic problems, social problems and political changes.  This is our home now.”

As for the future, 100% of St. Leo’s parish 
children in the Latino community were born here in the United States.  The hope, especially now that they’re going to school and learning the English language, is to teach them the Gospel and about their culture.  There is a Bible School for 7-12 year olds.  Some also attend our Sunday Children’s Liturgy of the Word during the 10:30 Mass.  The Hispanics have a program,  Life in the Holy Spirit, which is a retreat after age 12 and touches so many of the people – encouraging a new life in Christ. “We believe if we have very good families, we will help the country and to make the things happen better for everyone.  I’m not trying to say we don’t have problems, but most things we can correct and that it is really possible with work hard and to keep trying to make things better for everyone.  Whether that means cleaning up garbage in the streets or fixing things, we want to open our hearts to help other people.  This is where we prepare for the future of our kids - the land where our children will live.  We’re ready to sacrifice in order to raise better families and help others.  As John Kennedy said, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’”

What are the Dreams for the Future? “We are dreaming to create social empowerment with unity, working together for a better land, better country. We can do things, we can work – work together, too – and willing to sacrifice time and our talents. We believe we can create a better world in this time – now.  We need to have responsibilities and compromise.” Their prayers are that they are looked upon as effective human beings. There are racial differences. They feel like they are in harm, not at St. Leo, but in other cases, outside of the church, there are many different cases.  People see them as evil or causing problems. “Our Dream is to be accepted like a human being. To walk in the street like a person.” Even though some are not legal in this country, it is not that they would not have wished to have come legally.  Quite the opposite happened.  There was no opportunity to come legally.  And there is no opportunity for them to become legalized.  “We pray to become citizens.”

And as a general vision for coming to the United States of America? “I see this as a miracle, a sign from God that this is what we’re supposed to do.”