The Rev. Ray Leonard knew not to wear the clerical collar identifying him as a Roman Catholic priest. It almost certainly would have gotten him deported.
He knew not to celebrate Mass, hear confession, or baptize a child. The acts might have resulted in harassment — or worse, arrest and imprisonment — for the families Leonard cared about.
During a decade spent teaching and helping the needy in some of China’s most impoverished and oppressed regions, the New Jersey priest learned what it was like to live in a land without religious freedom.
It kindled a greater appreciation for his liberties at home. Which is why Leonard, 51, bristled at the U.S. government when it told him he couldn’t hold services at a Georgia naval base during last month’s government shutdown. Leonard, a civilian contractor on the base wasn’t deemed an “essential” employee.