Migrant Ministry

Welcome to the Migrant Ministry

It’s hard to imagine being at the mercy of others to get to Mass, but that’s the case for Migrant Workers who are in our area as Guest Farmworkers.  We have such a great gift right here in our Parish community to encounter Jesus in the stranger, and welcome Him as He called us to do.  Please prayerfully consider the Migrant Ministry and help us ensure our Guest Farmworkers have the means to attend Mass.

Hundreds of men annually work on contract (H-2A visas) with local growers to produce tobacco and other cash crops.  These guest workers arrive by bus throughout the growing season and live together in “camps” on the grower’s land, where they are typically isolated by language, lack of transportation and long hours of work.  Volunteers from Saint Bernadette offer a vital link to parish life to farm workers.

With the help of volunteers, the office of Social Outreach plans, coordinates and conducts outreach and advocacy with farm workers.  Whether or not you speak Spanish, there are many ways you can serve.

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ — Matthew 25:37-40

What Can I Do to Serve?

car

Provide transportation to Mass on Sunday

Every Sunday during growing season(March to November), groups of volunteers from St. Bernadette follow a lead driver along one of three routes (Angier, Fuquay-Varina, Willow Spring) to pick up farm workers, bring them to the 5 PM Sunday Mass and then return them home after dinner (approximately 7 PM).  We meet at the church at 3:15 PM and travel together; you do not need to be familiar with the local countryside to drive.  Each week we rely on approximately 15 volunteers to serve in this ministry.  Schedules are set by Thursday for the coming Sunday.  You can drive as often or as infrequently as you like.

Drivers to and from Mass are our greatest ongoing need.  Please prayerfully consider participating in this outreach. Sign up by emailing Gloria Azcona  ([email protected]) or by calling the Social Outreach office  919-552-8758.

Clothes

Donate men’s clothing

Men’s clothing is collected year-round and distributed to farmworkers throughout the growing season.  The men can bring only two small bags with them and throughout the season they need gently used or new clothing. Clothing is distributed after Mass on Sunday evenings. 

-Men’s long sleeve dress shirts (S, M, L) which are worn to work as protection from sun exposure, pesticide exposure and green tobacco sickness.

-Pants (greatest need is for waist sizes 32-36 and length 30 and 32)

-T shirts and shorts for after work, especially sizes M and L (W:  32, 34, 36)

-Baseball caps for work, sun and pesticide protection

-Bicycle style boxer shorts (New only) made with lycra to protect against chafing while working in the fields.

stethoscope

Volunteer at the Sunday evening screening clinic

Nurses, EMTs, mid-level providers and physicians volunteer at a weekly screening clinic held from June through September at St. Bernadette after the 5 PM Mass on Sundays.  Farmworkers are seen on Sundays. Our clinic is screening only.  No acute care and no treatment or diagnosis.  In some cases, we arrange transport to an ER via the Farmworker Project or the grower.  Interpreters are also needed (1/week).    Time commitment:  Approximately 2 hours/week, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. 

OTC medication

Donate over the counter (OTC) medications

OTCs are available in the screening clinic and on visits by staff to the camps.  Many farmworkers have limited access to stores and medications, and they may not have the English language skills needed to read labels and instructions.  The clinic collects OTC medications and vitamins that can be distributed by volunteers to workers and under the advisement of healthcare professionals on an “as-needed” basis.  Donations can be dropped off at Social Outreach during regular office hours or on Sundays between 3 and 5 pm.  For information on farmworker health issues, go to:  https://nfwm.org/education-center/farm-worker-issues/health-safety/

 

Especially in demand: Ibuprofen, Dramamine, Benadryl, antifungals and hydrocortisone, all of which are used in the treatment of work-related conditions.

blanket

Donate blankets, sheets and bedding

St. Bernadette has a ministry, “Our Brother’s Keeper” that makes and donates quilts to those in need, including farmworkers. For more information on this ministry, contact Susan Koontz at 984-999-1013.

Donate financially

You can donate online by clicking the Donate button below. Include Migrant Ministry in the section on the form “Are you donating to any specific fund?




 

Every dollar goes to helping provide food, clothing, and emergency needs. We are truly grateful for your generosity.

Gloria’s Notes from the Fields

Planting Medicinal Marijuana – Camp in Lillington 2019

                                                              Migrant Ministry 2020 Season Recap
Hello all,
I hope this finds you and your family well. I would like to share a few details about the Migrant Ministry 2020 season.
It proved to be an awesome year for the workers and St. Bernadette parishioners through God’s mercy. We followed the social distance and mask mandate to keep us and our farm workers safe. We serviced 148 farm workers in 17 camps.
Lafayette camp closed and those workers were transferred to Mamie Upchurch. Mamie Upchurch lost some of the regulars (Alvaro, Armando, and others, who were not requested by the rancher). Our contact from Adcock camp was displaced to a camp north of Durham and I was not able to get any interest from anyone else in Adcock. The guys from Airport camp did not respond this year.
We had a Covid-19 positive case in one of the camps that in the past we had frequently transported only one worker to Mass. The worker that contracted Covid-19 is not known to the Migrant Ministry. He was a 62-year-old who had been coming to that camp for 20 plus years and well known to the rancher. He was hospitalized in late May and was released into the camp in October. Since he had been in a coma, he required physical therapy to help him walk again. By God’s grace, he fully recovered. During the camp’s quarantine time when the positive case was found, we provided toiletries and food for the entire camp.

• Clothing and food donations continued to flow from our parishioners to the workers without interruption. Through generous volunteers like St. Andrew parishioners, Neal, MaryAnn, Katherine and St. Andrew Brown Bag Ministry, crates of fresh fruit and vegetables were delivered to St. Bernadette every Thursday. These were safely distributed to approximately 7 camps every week.
• A parishioner who owns a Hispanic bakery, Shelly’s Mom’s Bakery, in Angier donated 3 black trash bags of delicious, sweet bread and bolillos (sandwich bread) every Sunday and were taken to the camps shortly after picking up. The workers were so happy to receive them.
• Parish families provided meals for some camps and dropped them off at the end of the workers’ workday. This was such a treat! One family did this once a week for a month.
• Parishioners donated clothing throughout the season. One family donated 10 pairs of gently used cowboy boots from a family member among other clothing items. Donations of new rain work boots were also distributed from other parishioners.
• Another parishioner donated haircuts to Open Gate on a Sunday morning and another parishioner gave facials all while keeping safe. The workers were so thankful.
• Three clothes washers were donated and transported by a dedicated parishioner to the camps. We are so grateful to have this parishioner in our ministry.A driver has developed a strong bond with a particular camp and celebrates a worker’s birthday before the camp returns to Mexico. This year because of Covid-19, the driver provided a meal of Kentucky Fried chicken with all the fixings! She does this truly with such love and compassion.

Because of Covid-19, we cancelled the Sunday dinners and did not transport the workers to Mass. At this point, we do not know when we will be back to normal schedules, but we will continue to serve the farm workers the best we can through God’s abundant Grace and Mercy.
Blessings and Merry Christmas!

June 30, 2020

Hi all,

I hope this finds you well.

 

Even though the pandemic has turned everything upside down in our lives including the Migrant Ministry’s schedule of events, the needs of our brothers (the farmworkers) are still there.  I received a simple request of clothes washers, reminding me God’s love is constant, never changing and it brought me comfort.

Because the clothes washers at the camps get heavily used, we get replacement requests every year about this time.  Edgar from Two Claude and Esequiel from Wagstaff texted me their requests on Sunday.

 

I was having a difficult time in finding donated washers, so I prayed the rosary asking for divine help.  On the second day, Edgar said they had found one.  They were working with the guys from Open Gate camp and when they heard their need, they offered one that was languishing in their camp.  In normal times, these two camps are regular Mass attendees.  God is good and answers prayers.

 

This morning, I received a call from one of our Migrant Ministry drivers who had put out feelers to his many friends.  One gentleman stepped forward and donated a brand-new high capacity washer from Home Depot.  One of our Migrant Ministry drivers will transport the washer in a few days.  Again, God is good and answers prayers.

 

Yes, we are in tumultuous times, but look to God for his steadfastness in his love and mercy for us, his precious children.  He continues to show himself in the Migrant Ministry.

 

Peace,

 

Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

 

11/17/19

One more growing season has come and gone, and all the farm workers have returned to their homes or continued up north to cut pine trees.

We had so many new occurrences this year,

  • We picked up five new camps, Adcock, Rawls Church, Royal, Mabry and James Austin.
  • Hair stylists came to the weekly Sunday dinners and donated their time and talent to cut the workers’ hair. They plan to continue to come next year, twice a month during the meals.
  • Someone from Abiding Presence church saw a need and volunteered to cook 16 liters of soup for the workers.
  • Tax preparation was offered by one of our drivers this year and a few workers were greatly helped.
  • Our new volunteers in the clinic consisted of a few people with medical backgrounds; medical doctor, physician assistant, nurses and medical interns.
  • The Thursday camp Masses had new volunteers that brought their children and delicious Mexican food. They will continue to volunteer next year as well.
  • Our list of volunteer drivers grew to 32, giving needed rest to our regular drivers. One of them had a 14-passenger van.
  • Drivers of Faith picked up the farm workers from the camps 215 times for Mass this year. We are truly blessed.
  • An incredible number of shoes were donated this year by one donor, every worker that came to Mass received a pair and more and they could not be happier.
  • Three of the workers from Mamie have volunteered to be ushers – joining one from Barbour Store.
  • Growing hemp was introduced more widely at the camps and we hear more camps will start growing it next year.

Thank you for making this year a success from transporting the guys to and from church, ministering to them in the clinic, arranging and handing out clothing, cooking and serving them food, setting up the tables and breaking down.  You were there when I needed you most and I appreciate it.   You are all my Simons of Cyrene.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I hope to see you next year.

7/24/19

Gloria’s Notes from the Fields

Scripture says to open your heart so you can see God’s miracles in your life, so I’d like to share one with you.

Lately, I’ve been feeling my relationship with our Lord hasn’t been strong.  I thought He wasn’t hearing me, and I was disappointed with myself.

Our wonderful volunteers in the food pantry put together some food for me to take to a camp and I was very excited to be able to provide food to one that had been working very little.  We had been having high temperatures with the heat index of 105 and the plant wasn’t mature enough to tend, rain was needed.

I arrived at the camp and no one was around.  I was hoping they would be home for lunch, so I texted them asking if I had permission to enter one of the trailers and leave the 4 boxes filled with perishable food.  I waited a little while and tried to call but the connection is almost non-existent in that part of Lillington.  After 20 minutes, I was worried they weren’t coming so I started to pray for them to arrive.  It was important to me they had this food because six farm workers from this camp are new ushers at St. Bernadette.  It is a joy to see them serving in this capacity.

As I was praying, dark clouds moved in and it started to sprinkle and then a torrential rain came down.  It rained for a while and then I decided to leave and go to another camp but then I received a call from the farm workers.  They had to stop working because of the rain and were heading home.

After I left their camp and was about three blocks away, I saw the pavement was bone dry and nothing was wet from that point to the church.  I choose to believe this was my miracle of the day and I thank HIM.

Blessings.

Good Friday, 4/19/19

I know in my heart God is great, but I am still amazed how he shows himself in different ways, especially this year during Holy Week.

On the evening of Good Friday, I received a phone call from Hugo, one of the farm workers from a camp in Angier letting me know they had arrived for this year’s growing season.  After a few pleasantries, I asked how many farm workers were at his camp and he said none.  The rancher had loaned everyone out to different camps (which is unusual) and he and Luis were in Creedmoor, an hour away.  When the farm workers arrive for the season, we welcome them with clothing, shoes, blankets, toiletries, rosaries and a few other items. I said I would go to Creedmoor possibly the next day, if not, on Monday. When they had left their camp in Angier, they weren’t aware they were going to stay there for two weeks, so they didn’t pack clothing or toiletries.  It had rained the day before and they were picking strawberries in the rain.

After I heard they were working in wet clothes from the day before, I changed my worried thoughts of how much I had to do to prepare for my family’s Easter dinner celebration, to who can I ask to go with me on this one hour trip and how early do I have to leave the next day in order to get dry clothes for Hugo, Luis and the 3 other men living with them.

Nancy Watson readily agreed to go with me on the following day, Holy Saturday.  We are both early birds, so we left at 7:00 am after packing my car at the church. God was with us because we didn’t have too much traffic and we found the camp without any problem.  We turned into a U-Pick strawberry patch with a small shack to the left where they were selling strawberries and vegetables.  To the right were two trailers and some farm workers busy picking strawberries out among wet soil and rows of strawberries.  Luis greeted us in wet clothes but with a huge smile and a warm hug for us even though his hands were cold.  I love this ministry!

The trailer was small and stark but clean with an inside washer and dryer that actually worked.  We placed the donated items from generous St. Bernadette parishioners in the bedrooms and arrived in Fuquay with happy hearts.  What a blessed Holy Week it was seeing and hearing HIM in Luis and Hugo.

I can’t wait to see what HE has in store for the Migrant Ministry this growing season.  What a great start!

Blessings.

SUNDAY DINNER

Saint Bernadette – September 2, 2019

Our last dinner of the year was joyfully prepared by our own Parishioners.  It was a great celebration with decorations, haircuts, a raffle, prayer, laughter and fellowship.  We are so blessed to count the farmworkers as not only fellow parishioners but friends.  God is Love.

Our Lady of Lourdes – August 25, 2019

With loving hands and lots of laughs, our sisters and brothers from Our Lady of Lourdes made a wonderful meal.  The farmworkers left with full stomachs and lots of take-away boxes!  Thank you again for a grace-filled year.

CAMP MASSES

Trent Wilson – July 18, 2019

Chicken Farm 2 – July 11, 2019

Be sure to checkout more of Gloria’s Notes From the Fields here

 

 


Testimonials

St. Bernadette parishioner who has driven migrant workers to Mass for 13 years

I feel blessed and proud to say that this will be my 13th year driving the migrant farm workers. It is to me a privilege to drive these hardworking people to Mass.  They are away from their families never complain and are thankful to be a part of the St. Bernadette community.  We help with healthy meals, clothing and medical needs.  I have gained their friendship and made great friends with other parishioners who help out.  You will gain much in helping out, even just once.  This is a worthy cause.  To me giving outweighs receiving.

Migrant Worker who has been coming for over 20 years

Yo, Felix, estoy muy agradecido con la iglesia santa Bernardita y con todas las personas que allí trabajan por que en los 20 años que tengo trabajando aquí siempre me han ayudado.  Dios se lo page a todos. Gracias.
I, Felix, am very appreciative with St. Bernadette church and all the people who work there because in the 20 years working here they always help me.  May God repay all of you.  Thank you.