Lory Ghertner, who works so hard for immigration reform and the rights of farm workers in Sodus, sent around a copy of the Republican platform statement on immigration. It begins by praising the work of legal immigrants, then moves to a hard line on those without documents, and rejects any possibility of amnesty. (In all fairness, I haven’t seen the Democratic party’s statement yet and have no idea what that will contain). As with any public statement involving the lives of poor people, I find that the reality down on the ground looks ever so different than the image one hears from people in power.
Last night I pulled into the parking lot in front of the little house where we celebrate the migrant Mass each week. One of the young men came out to meet me, telling me that he knew it was me, even though I was driving a different car. We looked at my car and I tried my best to explain about the old one not being able to pass inspection without a lot of repairs, and it being time to get another. Mostly we agreed that it was a good car and looked nice. (ten years old and super reliable, should be able to handle those back country roads through the winter and beyond). I ask him about the bug situation at their house. Having had some success with the bug war at the casita, I’m ready to offer help here, too.
The altar had already been set up, a crate on four upended buckets. As I laid the altarcloth and set out the candles, I repeatedly removed a curious Siamese kitten, who kept us company all through the Mass. The others joined us, one by one. It’s getting dark so early now that by the time of the first reading it was too dark to see the book. I held up one of the altar candles as one man read the first reading, and another the psalm. When it was my turn to read, someone had the idea of using the light from his cell phone as a flashlight. That worked really well.
The older men sat on a couple of plastic chairs, exhausted from the work of the day. The younger men stood, as did I, holding the cat while I preached. I told them about the Labor Day parade and how Librada and I will march with the farmworkers. They had heard of Labor Day, but no one expected to have the day off. They don’t get holidays. We prayed for our young friend who no longer lives with them. (I’m sad. He was going to be baptized, and now I don’t know if it will happen. Plus I miss him). We prayed for Michael, still recovering from his house fire. I pray the Eucharistic Prayer in the dark, with the help of the cell phone, lifting a candle along with the host so everyone can see it before communion.
After Mass, besides the usual cookies, I’ve got dinner to share. Capo has been working so late, getting home at ten pm, with no energy to cook – so I made him supper and had meant to leave it at his house after Mass – but surprise! He got out early and came to Mass. So I ask if there are plates and forks and a spoon, and someone brings out some plastic bowls and a serving spoon. There are no forks, so we eat our rice and cauliflower and sausage with our fingers, and there is enough for everyone. Capo insists that the others be served before him, and then helps with translation as I try to understand the story one of the men is telling me about a situation in his family. He’s upset and worried, and I so wish I could understand him better. We talk in the dark, until finally I blow out the altar candles and pack up to leave.
Community – solidarity – caring – sharing food – listening – helping each other – enjoying the moment together – worshipping together. Thank God for our little church! What a blessing it is, to be together.
No 11 am Mass next Sunday, September 9, as I will be in Utah visiting my daughter, Clare. There will also be no bulletin this coming week. Hope to see you on September 16 at 11 am.
Love to all,
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
– Paolo Friere
Come and march with farmworkers in the Labor Day parade this Monday, Sept 3. Gather at Sibley Place and East Ave between 9 and 9:30 am. Please wear red or white, and a red bandana if you have one.
Attached you will find a document from the New York Civil Liberties Union about Farmworker Myths and Facts. Thanks to Marylu Aguilar for passing that along. http://www.nyclu.org/files/releases/2012.5.22_Myths%20and%20Facts.pdf
Have a blessed labor day. Think of our farmworkers as you rest from your own labor. Without their work we would not eat. How can we change this system, so that everyone gets fed, but no one gets overworked and exploited?
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