WNYC File - Juana Morales, a migrant worker, gathers apples for apple cider on a farm in Genesee County.
“You shall not mistreat the aliens who live in your land. You shall treat them as your own, for you were once aliens in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:33-34).
Our migrant season has once again begun. I started working with the migrants in 1988 with the now deceased Sister Mary Jane Mitchell, SSJ, in the Brockport area. The Inter-diocesan Hispanic Ministry Program began in 1991 as a joint effort of the Buffalo and Rochester Dioceses. Our goal is to respond to the pastoral needs of the 3,500 to 4,000 migrant workers who come into Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Erie and Western Monroe counties each year.
Most of these migrant families are Mexican and 90 percent are Roman Catholic. A large number of these individuals are here for at least six months of each year. Some of the families attempt to “settle out” and stay through the winter.
I am the pastor of Resurrection Parish in Batavia. On Sundays, after my parish obligations, I celebrate a Spanish Mass at Nativity Church in Brockport and visit the camps to deliver food and plan visits and evening Masses.
I have a team that works with me in this important ministry. The Buffalo Diocese has provided one paid position held by Doris Valentin. The main volunteers who assist me in this ministry are Deacon Henry Moscicki, Marcia Huber and Jackie Motz.
On Thursday evenings our team goes out to do our visits. We have a Spanish Mass in at least one camp and then visit several more camps that evening. We travel about 100 miles each evening and visit each county on a regular basis.
We give “welcoming bags” to each migrant on our first visit. Some of these are made and donated by the Legion of Mary from my parish. The bags usually include a T-shirt, soap, wash cloth, toothbrush, razor and other personal items. Sometimes we put in a little candy for a treat. We also distribute blankets and donated clothes.
Each week we purchase juice, eggs, milk, flour, sugar, salt, coffee, cooking oil, occasionally meat, and a favorite item, toilet paper. Every year I receive cases of rice, dry beans, canned goods and soy milk from the Heart and Soul Food Pantry in Niagara Falls. For the children in the camps we provide school supplies and toys at Christmas. I have been blessed to receive a grant from the Providence Fund at Stella Niagara to help with emergencies.
We have assessed their needs and planned programs to meet some of their needs. In each area we have sacramental preparation classes for baptism, Eucharist, confirmation and marriage. We have often advocated for them at agencies when necessary.
Our mission is to provide a stable, pastoral presence in the unstable, mobile lives of these hard-working migrant farm workers.
Father Trujillo is the pastor of Resurrection Parish in Batavia.
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