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  (outreach@stbnc.net) 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.

 

Please email Gloria Azcona  (outreach@stbnc.net) or call the Parish office  919-552-8758.

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.

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    Gloria’s Notes from the Fields

    Anything we can do

    Planting Medicinal Marijuana – Camp in Lillington 2019

    September 19, 2022

    I’m starting to hear the guys making plans for their return trip back home so it must be close to saying goodbye to them again.  Some are leaving mid-October (those that work with only tobacco), others mid-November (broccoli workers from Dupree) and the rest in December (die-hards like Luis from Closed Gate).

    Two things happened during this year that are memorable:

    In the previous years, when the Sunday meals started, the workers would ask if I needed help in setting up the tables and chairs and I would decline any help because I had volunteers coming to do that for me.  Then the workers would go into the Gathering area and wait for Mass to begin.

    This year was different, they came into the social hall and started pulling out tables and chairs and I didn’t have the heart to decline their help.  They even placed the tablecloths on the tables with great care.  When we had free haircuts for them, I noticed a list of names on the clinic table.  One of the workers had started a list so whoever wanted a haircut would place his name on the list rather than stand in line for their turn.  Then I understood, the workers are owning this event.  They are parishioners of St. Bernadette, and this is what parishioners do; they organize and help.  They don’t want to be treated as guests, they are parishioners, and they belong here.  A lot of them have been parishioners for 24 years; more than probably many of us.  They have made a statement and we hear them.

    The second thing that happened during this growing season was more evidence of the Holy Spirit engrained in the Migrant Ministry.

    I used to worry about not having enough drivers, shirts, etc. for the workers but not anymore.  It was the last Sunday meal for this year, and I needed one more driver.  I was standing in the gathering area after the 9:30 Mass on Sunday and someone came up to me and said she was ready to drive.  Evidently, Linda and I had talked about the Migrant Ministry previously and I had told her to check back with me when she was ready to drive.  She was willing to drive that day and when I told her the camp where she would go was difficult to find, she knew exactly where it was because she lived about 10 minutes from there.  She asked what time was pick-up for the return trip and I said a volunteer was offering free haircuts so maybe around 6:40 pm.  She said I’m a professional barber and I’d like to cut their hair as well.  Oh my gosh, I was stunned that day.  This happens to me often when I’m working with the Migrant Ministry, and I know the Holy Spirit is working through us for the migrant workers.

    Blessings.

     

    July 27, 2022

    Thank you, Holy Name of Jesus, and Raleigh Diocese folks, for a delicious meal!

     

    May 17, 2022

    Fr. Fernando made my day this past Sunday at the 5:00 pm Mass!  I had asked him to acknowledge the farmworkers’ return to Mass at St. Bernadette after being away because of the pandemic and he went beyond a simple welcome back.

    He asked the farmworkers to step to the foot of the altar for a special blessing and expressed his gratitude for the work they do to support their families.  The parishioners applauded them, and the workers returned to their pews with a smile; their hearts were touched, and it meant a lot to them.  I was so excited that I missed the opportunity of a group photo.

    This is one of the reasons I love being part of this ministry.  I have the privilege of seeing the Holy Spirit at work through each of us when we reach out to the farmworkers through donations, driving them to Mass, volunteering at the clinic table during Sunday dinners, or just an acknowledgement that they are not invisible but part of our community of St. Bernadette.

    May the Holy Spirit continue to dwell in the Migrant Ministry!

    Blessings.

     

    March 22, 2022

    The 2022 growing season has begun and the first farmworkers have arrived.

    Four of the Barbour Store camp farmworkers were notified last December that the rancher would be discontinuing growing tobacco due to health reasons.  The 4 workers are currently working at Tarheel Nursery in Angier.  When they were working at Barbour Store they were lent to this nursery after the tobacco ended for the season.  The guys didn’t mind because they were treated very well by the nursery owner.  The owner is a man of faith, and it shows in the blessings the guys have received.

    • Their new camp has a brand-new clothes washer indoors
    • Brand-new mattresses
    • A large wall heater
    • Each bedroom has a window air conditioner
    • They have a car in the carport for work use only
    • The shower and toilet are in separate rooms
    • Nice kitchen table and chairs
    • Their kitchen is stocked with a few pans and dinnerware
    • A working refrigerator and stove
    • Two overstuffed chairs
    • Horses in a pasture across the way which lends to a serene setting
    • For now, they work from 9am to 5pm Monday – Friday and Saturday until noon. I’m sure as the warm weather sets in, their hours will change.

    They feel like they are living in paradise.  We’ll see where Raymundo and the rest of the guys will be located when they arrive in a few months.

    Santos from Wagstaff arrived a few days ago and he looks great.  He’s the only one at the camp since the rest of the guys can’t cross into the U.S. until they show evidence of having received 2 vaccinations.

    Please pray the farmworkers continue to receive God’s graces through the Migrant Ministry.

    Blessings.

     

     

    December 1, 2021

     

    We are at the end of the broccoli growing season and the last farmworker will be returning to his family at the end of this week. It must be such a joyful time for them to see their families again after 10 months. I recall a news clip showing families in the U.S. reuniting with their families after being locked down because of the pandemic. The families were joyful and had tears of happiness. This is probably how it feels for the farmworkers every year. They must feel desperation when they are preparing for their trip to the U.S. once again, but they understand they need to be apart from their families to sustain them.

    The Migrant Ministry volunteers exist at St. Bernadette as instruments of God’s infinite mercy to support our brothers who are our parishioners. Some of the farm workers have been coming to St. Bernadette for over 24 years and some are ushers at the 5:00 pm Mass.

    Let’s pray we can bring the farmworkers to Sunday Mass next year; they certainly miss visiting and hearing the WORD. It gives them strength to continue working through the tough times at the height of the season when it is overwhelmingly hot and humid, and they can’t seem to keep up with the rancher’s demands.

    This growing season was full of activity with volunteers cooking meals; donating, and transporting clothes washers; sorting, and distributing food; donating clothing, and ready to volunteer whenever possible. It warms my heart when someone asks me if I need anything for the Migrant Ministry. Prayers are always welcome.

    Some of the workers will not be returning to their current camps, they could not withstand the green tobacco disease, the loneliness, the harshness this work entails. The rest will return for another growing season and know St. Bernadette parishioners will be ready to envelope them in fellowship and understanding of their need to be here.

    Blessings.

     

     

    diciembre 1, 2021

     

    Estamos al final de la temporada de cultivo de brócoli y el último trabajador agrícola regresará con su familia al final de esta semana. Debe ser un momento muy alegre para ellos volver a ver a sus familias después de 10 meses. Recuerdo un clip de noticias que muestra a familias en los Estados Unidos reuniéndose con sus familias después de haber sido encerradas debido a la pandemia. Las familias estaban alegres y tenían lágrimas de felicidad. Esto es probablemente lo que se siente para los trabajadores agrícolas cada año. Deben sentir desesperación cuando se preparan para su viaje a los Estados Unidos una vez más, pero entienden que necesitan estar separados de sus familias para mantenerlos.

    Los voluntarios del Ministerio De Trabajadores existen en Santa Bernardita como instrumentos de la infinita misericordia de Dios para apoyar a nuestros hermanos que son nuestros feligreses. Algunos de los trabajadores agrícolas han estado viniendo a St. Bernadette por más de 24 años y algunos son ujieres en la misa de las 5:00 pm.

    Oremos para que podamos llevar a los trabajadores agrícolas a la misa dominical el próximo año; ciertamente extrañan visitar y escuchar la PALABRA. Les da fuerza para continuar trabajando en los tiempos difíciles en el apogeo de la temporada cuando hace mucho calor y humedad, y parece que no pueden mantenerse al día con las demandas del ranchero.

    Esta temporada de crecimiento estuvo llena de actividad con voluntarios cocinando comidas; donando y transportando lavadoras de ropa; clasificando y distribuyendo alimentos; donando ropa, y listo para ser voluntario siempre que sea posible. Mi corazón se llena de gusto cuando alguien me pregunta si necesito algo para el Ministerio de Trabajadores. Las oraciones son siempre bienvenidas.

    Algunos de los trabajadores no regresarán a sus campos actuales, no pudieron soportar la enfermedad del tabaco verde, la soledad, la dureza que conlleva este trabajo. El resto regresará para otra temporada de crecimiento y sabrá que los feligreses de Santa Bernadette estarán listos para envolverlos en compañerismo y comprensión de su necesidad de estar aquí.

    Bendiciones.

    August 10, 2021 

    The tobacco harvest is in full swing, and the workers are out in the hot sun with the heat index of 105 degrees. 

    So far, we have 20 active camps and have served 188 farm workers. 

    Even though we aren’t transporting the workers to Sunday Mass because of the pandemic, we take them food, clothing, and OTC medicine frequently.  I think they mostly need our presence to not feel forgotten.  I often get texts from them wishing me a good week or just sending a brief greeting.  They must greatly miss their families- 10 months is a long time to be without loved ones.   

    Some workers left their homes shortly after their new grandchild was born, or left knowing their spouse was undergoing surgery in a few weeks or have learned their sister passed away and weren’t able to say goodbye. 

    The workers are here to sustain their families and they will sacrifice themselves to accomplish it – just like our Lord Jesus Christ did for his children. 

    Blessings. 

    Please pray for those who are sick. 

    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.