In Canada we use a fair number of migrant workers in the agricultural field. The federal government offers a temporary seasonal worker program for this need. Many of these workers come from Mexico and other central America countries, as well as Jamaica. While in most cases the employer/farmer treats their workers well there have been some cases of exploitation. Our Society of Saint Vincent de Paul has been able to assist in such cases with food and clothing assistance.
In my former parish we also worked with the diocesan migrant worker ministry to help the predominantly Hispanic workers which could include information, in their language, about their rights while in Canada as well as health related issues. The other factor with Hispanic workers was the common Catholic faith which we shared. It is always interesting how much we can also learn from our personal relationship with others.
One of the programs we offered at my parish during the summer months was to designate one Sunday each month at which we would schedule a Mass in Spanish at our church and then have a meal with the workers which also included gifts of clothing and toiletries. I can still remember something that happened at one of these Sunday events which taught me a lot about my own faith.
We had a Mass scheduled for 6 pm to be followed by dinner. As the Mass concluded, we were still waiting for one farmer to drop off his workers from their day’s work. Dinner was about to begin as the small bus pulled up with about 6 -7 workers. All of those already there, including myself were hungry and just wanted to sit down for our meal. Instead of these late comers, who had just finished a long day’s work, instead of rushing into the Parish hall for the meal, they rushed to the church and were able to stop and talk with the priest as he was about to leave after Mass. These workers sat and talked with the priest for about 10-15 minutes before finally coming to the hall for dinner. I admit to having tears in my eye as I watched this simple but meaningful display of what faith is about. I certainly learned a lot about my own faith that day from these visitors to Canada.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is past president of the Ontario Regional Council of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.