Monday, December 5, 2011

Got food? Thank a farmworker

When we sit down to sumptuous meals we usually thank God for the abundance of the fruits of the earth. As we prepare now for the coming of Jesus—with all the traditional Christmas family celebrations involving delicious food and treats— we are encouraged to be aware of the men, women and children who work in the fields, who make it possible for us to have food on our table.

Often, migrant farm workers and their families, who are directly responsible for putting food on our table, don’t have enough food to nourish themselves. Behind every apple, every tomato, every cucumber, there is a human face. There are the sweat and tears of long, hard hours, poorly compensated labor and very hard living conditions.

Twenty-five years ago a group of eight pastoral leaders from different dioceses throughout the U.S. founded the Catholic Migrant Farmworker Network (CMFN) for the purpose of accompanying farm workers and responding to their needs as they travel following the crops.

Today, CMFN ( has expanded its outreach as it responds to the mission of bringing a pastoral presence to rural migrant farm workers, promoting the formation of welcoming communities within the Church and advocating for farm workers’ dignity. CMFN also promotes the formation of leaders within the farm-worker communities.

On the weekend of October 28, a group of 84 pastoral agents and farm workers met in Sacramento, California to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the creation of the CMFN. Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, chair of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity, noted in his homily the great service to migrant farmworkers and the Church the CMFN does.

A trip to a migrant camp in the Diocese of Stockton was one of the highlights of the celebration. Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton spoke words of encouragement and gave his blessings to the migrant camp farmworkers and their families who hosted a festive dinner. Bishop Rutilio del Riego, auxiliary bishop of San Bernardino, CA and chairman of the Subcommittee on Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers (PCMRT), and Bishop John Manz, auxiliary bishop of Chicago and episcopal liaison to the Migrant Farm Worker Apostolate, accompanied the CMFN and congratulated them “for the good work accomplished by the organization, for the vision of its founders, for its leadership and for all those who collaborate, promote and support CMFN’s mission.”

CMFN has teamed with Creighton University’s Multi-Cultural Affairs Office to promote social justice in rural migrant communities. For the fifth year, students and staff are preparing to visit migrant communities in rural areas in the United States. In the Spring of 2012, the Migrant Journey Service Learning initiative will be coordinated by a local CMFN board member in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina. Typically students are paired with migrant workers to experience farm labor, serve meals and accompany spiritual outreach teams.

The goals of the Migrant Journey initiative are to contemplate and reflect on how we find God in all people and all things and to learn how students can get involved in social justice, human rights and coalition-building with grassroots organizations that serve the poor.

Cheers to Creighton’s Multi-Cultural Affairs Office for taking this initiative and to CMFN on its 25th birthday.

As for those of us blessed enough to sit around a full family table at Christmastime, here is a thought: Got food? Remember the farmworker!

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