Denver Auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez had a message for migrant workers and their families during a special Mass Sept. 24 at St. Nicholas Parish.
You are not alone.
“My message was for them to be aware there is God,” Bishop Rodriguez explained after the Migrant Farm Workers Mass. “There is a loving father who is not far away from what they are living, so they can feel all the time that they are not by themselves. Whatever comes their way, God is with them.”
About 100 attended the Mass, including migrant farm workers and those who came to show support in this farm community with a large Hispanic population.
“The workers need assurance from their fellow Catholics,” said Sister Molly Munoz, who works in several rural Eastern Plains parishes. “It would help them to know we are conscious of their situation, and concerned about it. They are suffering a lot.”
At a dinner following Mass, families shared concerns about the president’s promise to deport undocumented workers.
“Mom worries about him breaking up families,” said a 15-year-old brought into the country from Mexico at age 1, by parents who work in Colorado farm fields. “Mother just wishes the president would stop threatening families. It worries her. She wishes they would give more opportunities, for the ones who work out in the fields. She would like a chance to study, and learn skills.”
The boy’s mother leaned her forehead on her hands and spoke in broken English.
“Food every day is more expensive,” the woman said. “The rent. We pay more and more and more. It is just a struggle for 14 years.”
Pray for them, said Bishop Rodriguez.
“We as Catholics must ask the lord for a blessing for them,” he said. “We know they live in hard conditions, and they need God’s blessing more than ever. We have to become more aware of the reality these people face, and have to be more aware that they are our bothers in need help.”
Catholic volunteers from metro Denver have long brought Mass to the fields of the Eastern Plains, where migrant workers are an essential component of the economy. The bishop’s Mass was planned for the fields, but moved to St. Nicholas because of rain.
“This is the first time we’ve had a bishop give the Mass,” said Marie Ramos Beeler, a volunteer from the Spirit of Christ Migrant Ministry at Arvada’s Spirit of Christ Catholic Community.
Beeler and other volunteers bring food, clothing, blankets, fans, sheets, pillow cases and other donations to migrant workers three or four times a week. The ministry receives donations from parishioners, Panera Bread and Costco. Her and three other members from Spirit of Christ Migrant Ministry met with Bishop Rodriguez earlier in the year to discuss how the Church is addressing the immigration issue.
“Do Catholics do enough to help? Up until we met with Bishop Rodriguez in July, we did not think the church was doing enough,” Beeler said. “But since our meeting, Bishop Rodriguez has been wonderful. He has been out to the fields with us visiting with migrants at their housing. He has told us he wants to become more involved with this community, and have the church become more involved.”
Beeler worries Coloradans won’t appreciate migrant workers until they are gone, and can no longer enter the country.
“I talked to a farmer right here in this area,” she said. “He ran an ad in the local paper for two months to hire help at the farm, and he got absolutely no response. I do not know any American who would do what these people do. In the summer, all I do out here is get in and out of my truck and deliver food to them, and I’m exhausted. I cannot imagine how they work like that in 90-degree heat.”
Since the last election, Beeler said migrants have gone further underground.
“People here are very afraid,” she said. “They have started covering their windows. When [the president] was first elected, they were not opening their doors to us because they were so afraid.”
Some avoided the bishop’s Mass for fear of deportation, a migrant explained.
Beeler and other volunteers have heard all the controversy regarding the legal status of most migrant workers. They aren’t up for a policy debate. The migrants live and work here regardless of those who don’t like it. Most are Catholic, and all are human.
“As Catholics, we need to treat them like we would want to be treated,” Beeler said. “They are God’s children as much as we are God’s children.”
Featured image by Brandon Young | Denver Catholic