At the migrant Mass last night we talked about stepping out in trust, walking through life not knowing what is ahead, and about growing close to God and how that relationship makes it easier to keep putting one foot forward. I am happy to tell you that indeed, “we” talked about that, because almost everyone participates in the sermon, now. That gives me a lot of joy!
We were part way through the Eucharistic Prayer when a couple of guys joined us. One of them I knew, and the other was new to me. I was surprised when one of them began talking, but I waited, and listened, and caught the word, “la migra.” They had just seen a border patrol car, they said. Throughout the rest of the Mass, at every sound heads would turn, checking to see if a car was coming up the dirt road that is their driveway.
After communion I decided to use the moment to show everyone a handbook I had brought from the ACLU called “Conoce Sus Derechos.” Know your rights. I asked them to read it, and to share it with everyone in the house. I checked that they all had my phone number. And then I gave them a blessing. Be safe. Be well. Know that you are in the hands of God, always.
As we passed around oatmeal cookies after Mass, more stories came out. How the border patrol had set up a road block near Batavia and stopped anyone who looked Mexican. How that day, la migra had pulled over a van with eight farm workers, but they had all scattered. The man I did not know had outrun la migra in a cornfield. “Felicidades,” I said. Congratulations. (What, indeed, is the proper response when someone tells you they outran la migra? Everyone laughed.)
Another man in the group reported that his brother-in-law was back in Mexico after having been deported a week or two ago. Three weeks ago he approached me after Mass, asking if I could get some money to his brother-in-law in the detention center in Batavia. I was hesitant, because I didn’t know how to do it. It turned out to be simple: a money order, brought to the front desk at the detention center, will be deposited in the person’s account. When they are deported, they are given the money in cash. This is really important, because when someone is deported, they are simply brought to the border and let go. Can you imagine if you or I were deported from Mexico, and they brought us to, say, San Diego, and left us there? With no money, no means of transportation, knowing no one there – thousands of miles from the place that once was home, easy prey for unscrupulous people – what a frightening experience. They tell me that there are “refugios,” places like St Joe’s from the sound of it, where a person can find shelter and food. But for family members here, when someone they love is about to be deported, getting some money into their hands becomes very important. Obviously, they can’t do it themselves. So this adds one more element to what it means to be a full service church, when one is serving undocumented people.
Meanwhile, back at the casita, our other friends got home from work at about a quarter past ten. They have finally finished planting cabbage. I thought this would mean more reasonable work hours, but instead, it’s worse. They’re working in the bodega packaging cabbage, and for some reason their hours are longer than ever.
Why, why, why do people who work harder than anyone should have to, doing work that people born here simply will not do, also have to live in fear? (and in wretched conditions. Don’t get me started on the bugs).
Please pray. Pray for light in this desperate situation. And then ---
Let’s be that light.
Love to all,
On Sunday, August 19, I will be out of town at Spanish for Activists Camp. So far, I don’t have anyone to do a communion service, and it looks like we will simply not have Mass that Sunday. Next week’s bulletin will have the information, one way or the other.
We look forward to a visit from Ruth Rodriquez de Orantes of Shekina Church in Santa Ana, El Salvador, the first week in October. Ruth was last here for my ordination in May, 2010. She will also visit Immanuel Baptist and the divinity school. I am so happy that she will be here.
There is a need for Spanish language reading material for someone who will be unable to work for a while in the migrant community. If you happen to have any Spanish novels, magazines, whatever, I’d be happy to pass them along. I’ve already given her a set of teach-yourself-English dvds!
Saturday, August 11, is the feast of St Clare of Assisi. May the memory of this saint who loved poverty be a blessing to us who live in so much abundance, and help us to care profoundly for those living in poverty, ignorance and fear today. May we trust God as utterly and completely as she did. Amen!
Oscar Romero Church
An Inclusive Community of Liberation, Justice and Joy
Worshiping in the Catholic Tradition
Mass: Sundays, 11 am
St Joseph's House of Hospitality, 402 South Ave, Rochester NY 14620