Celebrating Our 125th!


Once upon a time….

St. Leo the Great Parish began with immigrants and refugee parishioners . . . and the next generation carries on!

What about the children? What about the language barrier? What about sharing God’s Word with the young ones?

One of the many mission works St. Leo is called upon to do is provide a conduit for education, spiritual formation, and social adjustments for our refugees, immigrants, established parishioners and all the folks in our community.

When our African children began school, they were placed by age. Unfortunately, a 10 year old just learning to read was put into fifth grade. Imagine the confusion and intimidation he experienced. Some of the young Burundians had never even been in school before.  Yearning for knowledge, many are already excelling and are like sponges soaking up stimulating information. One of our young ladies after two years in school has completed Great Expectations and deeply appreciates having access to such wonderful books—and there are more she is anxious to read! Most of our youth attend St. Boniface, St. Lawrence, Holy Family, Resurrection, and St. Joseph schools through the insistent determination of our Pastoral Associate to find boundless educational opportunities for them all.

Outside of school, any minority must deal with “being different” amongst their peers. The young Guatemalans and especially our Burundi children and youth have other children make fun of them because they’re from another country. They struggle with nuances in English, both in school and out in public. But when they come to understand our puns and clichés, their laughter is contagious! Nevertheless, they are resilient and clinging together as community keeps them anchored.

A real tension exists because they truly wish to preserve their culture - especially the great respect the community shows to its elders, and to retain their modest and moral upbringing as it was in their home countries. However, maintaining cultural values as opposed to seeing and doing what goes on in the street is a pivotal conflict. Trying to balance these concerns is an ongoing challenge for our youth.

A more delicate matter is the discipline of children in other cultures. Stronger means are permitted elsewhere but in our country, there are laws that protect children from certain corporal punishment. Our immigrant and refugee parents and families have learned the intolerance of such discipline here in the United States and understand their new way of life means a change to their parenting.

Parish involvement provides a pathway to carry on their faith traditions. Especially when it comes to church, it’s the children and youth of our parish who want to do the singing, They are actively involved as servers, musicians, and join their parents in various programs. Most importantly, Children’s Liturgy of the Word unites all our cultures in faith-filled understanding and experience of faith. Currently, thirty to forty children participate every week and the numbers are growing!

The future lies in the children. And it “takes a village” to create the experience of and for a lifetime.

What a village we have! And what a great “next generation” we have at St. Leo!