Have you ever asked yourself when shopping at the supermarket, “Where did this vegetable come from?” or while driving in the countryside, “Who picks these crops?” This summer God blessed me in the Ohio fields by allowing me to serve in the migrant ministry for two weeks. Serving in this ministry made me grateful for the people who pick our produce. As you may know, the majority of these workers are from Mexico, but others come from Africa and Guatemala. In many cases, they have made the hard decision to leave their country and their families in order to provide for them.
One of the most wonderful experiences throughout those two weeks was striving to reach all of the 77 migrant camps in the Diocese of Toledo with Br. Ryan. There was no way we could reach them all, but our brotherhood in Christ made the job much easier. At each camp, we began small rosary groups and delivered a letter from the Bishop, explaining his gratitude and desire to accompany the workers in the sacraments. It was beautiful to see them as they read the rosary pamphlets and slowly learned the prayers.
Each camp varied in size and response. One camp had 100 workers while another had only 10. Sometimes we were not welcomed. At one camp, the workers told us not to come because they needed some sleep after working since 3:00 in the morning. But as we went through the camps, most were happy to have us. Many had not had a priest or religious visit them for a few years. Though they worked almost constantly, many still made time to speak with us, pray with us, and even to come to Mass. During one visit, Fr. Vincent celebrated Mass in a big room where the migrants package the produce. They were so thankful to have us, and they even gave us a box of peaches and apples. It made me appreciate their hard work, and whenever I eat an apple or a peach, I offer a prayer for them.
Whenever you buy produce in the store or if you see a migrant labor camp, please offer a little prayer for the workers or stop and visit them. They may be in the middle of nowhere, working far from home, feeling isolated and tired as if they do not have much freedom. Prayer and kindness done in Christ go a long way to making their load feel a little lighter.