Pack the Theater Selfie Contest!

It’s Better than the Oscars! On March 28th, 2014, Cesar Chavez: An American Hero will be released in theaters across the country.  Cesar Chavez: An American Hero is the first major motion picture depicting the accomplishments of a Mexican American icon in the United States. This powerful film gives light to the farm worker movement and […]

Cesar E. Chavez’ grave site and Memorial Garden at the National Chavez Center. (Photo courtesy of the National Chavez Center)

President Obama to Establish César E. Chávez National Monument

National Farm Worker Ministry Executive Director Virginia Nesmith, NFWM California Organizer Lucy Boutte, and founding NFWM Director Rev. Chris Hartmire and his wife Jane along with several other past and present board members of NFWM will be attending the establishment of the César E. Chávez  National Monument on Monday, October 8 in Keene, CA. President Barack Obama will […]

Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement Honored by Obama Administration

by NFWM Director Virginia Nesmith I was honored to be part of a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) event that lifted farm workers up for national recognition. On March 26th, the “Pioneers of the Farm Worker Movement” were inducted into the DOL’s Hall of Honor and the Cesar Chavez Auditorium was dedicated. The event was […]

President Obama Issues Proclamation Honoring Cesar Chavez

obamasigns_0.jpgOn the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s birthday, March 31, President Barak Obama met with UFW President Arturo S. Rodriquez, UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta, and members of the Chavez family in the White House Oval office. President Obama signed a proclamation honoring Cesar Chavez. Following the meeting, Arturo Rodriquez said, “We thank President Obama for honoring Cesar Chavez on this important day for millions of Americans. We thank the President for his concern for the farm workers who feed our nation every day, and for his strong support of immigration reform. No other change is more urgently needed, and would be more lasting.”

CLICK HERE for President Obama’s Proclamation
CLICK HERE to read statements of Arturo Rodriguez & Paul Chavez.
 
 

A Contemplative Day: Cesar Chavez’s Fasts for Righteousnes

This should be read before the walking meditation, and can be read by being passed from one participant to the next. Facilitator can choose to use 1-2 of the reflection questions or none at all.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.

In this Beatitude, Jesus speaks to his disciples regarding righteousness in the most elemental terms possible. There are no physical sensations more primal than hunger and thirst. If a person is in dire thirst there is nothing she will not try in order to satisfy her craving. The reason for this is simple: without water a person will die. Hunger and thirst are regular parts of our lives, and they are instincts that save us from death. It is with this powerful language of hunger and thirst that Jesus confronts his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount.

cesarcross.jpgIn the original text there is a definite article before the word “righteousness.” This article is often not expressed in our English translations. A more accurate translation might read, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after the righteousness, for they shall be filled.” What does this mean? What is Jesus trying to communicate here? It seems that Jesus is confronting popular conceptions of righteousness, and promoting a specific type of righteousness. The righteousness that Jesus promotes is not an abstract righteousness, or dusty legality, but a deep and abiding righteousness that bears witness to the kingdom of heaven on earth, a truly new kingdom defined by forgiveness, peace, and hospitality. The righteousness that Jesus refers to in this Beatitude is the kingdom ethic promoted on the Sermon on the Mount. How are humans supposed to respond to this new ethic, this specific righteousness? We are supposed to desire it as we desire food. It is to be such a priority to us that we sense that we would starve without it.

*****

In “The Long, Hot Summer of 1967,” brooding political and social tensions erupted into violence across the U.S. Radical political rhetoric increasingly evoked violent imagery. Riots broke out in Detroit and Newark, and violence loomed over the fields of California. The popular vision of violent and rapid social change seduced some of the striking farm workers in César Chávez’s movement. They had grown tired of participating patiently in the non-violent struggle for justice. They began to carry weapons, threaten scabs with beatings, and commit acts of sabotage on police cars and farm machinery. César grieved this violent spirit and rebuked the strikers saying, “You reap what you sow; if we become violent with others, then we will become violent among ourselves. Social justice for the dignity of man cannot be won at the price of human life.” Despite his words, the longing for violence among the disgruntled farm workers only seemed to increase. Early in 1968 large scale violence seemed unavoidable. Cesar then began another form of rebuke, one that reveals profoundly what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

César’s non-violence was inspired by his Catholicism. Additionally, he had seen non-violence work in the Martin Luther King Jr.’s struggle in the South. César understood that non-violence is truthful because it reveals Christ’s righteousness. For this reason, César understood the emerging militant tendencies of some members of the United Farm Workers union to be a move toward unrighteousness. Thus, as the leader of the farm worker movement, César announced that he would refuse food “until such a time as everyone ignored” him or “made up their minds that they were going to be committing to non-violence.” César announced his fast on February 18th, and told those near him that he had already been fasting for 4 days.

Day after day César lay in a bed declining food until the members of his cesarwalking.jpgunion convinced him that they were committed to the righteousness of non-violence. This fast became a defining moment for the farm worker movement. As César lay in bed, farm workers from all over California gathered around his quarters. The farm workers pitched tents near César’s house, creating a community. They began to share food among themselves and pray together. César’s fast was inaugurating a spiritual revival among the farm workers. On March 11th, the twenty-five day fast ended with a Mass, attended by 8,000 people. He broke bread with his mother and Senator Robert Kennedy. He began to fill his stomach again, because his hunger for righteousness was also being filled. After the liturgy, a statement written by César was read over the loud speakers. In the statement César wrote:

“The Fast was first for me and then for all of us in this Union. It was a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice. Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and our spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons. “It is my deepest belief that only by giving our lives do we find life. I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act…is to sacrifice ourselves for others in a totally non-violent struggle for justice. God help us…”

César’s fast in the winter of 1968 provides a dramatic example of what it means to hunger and thirst for righteousness. While Jesus may have been speaking metaphorically, César’s fast is a literal embodiment of experiencing hunger for the sake of righteousness. The righteousness of non-violence was so important to César that he expressed his longing for it through becoming physically hungry. His desire for the righteousness, both his own and that of the farm worker movement, are inspirational to farm worker advocates today.

Reflection Questions:

  • When were you most physically hungry in your life? Describe what it felt like. How does that experience influence how you understand this Beatitude?
  • How do you think that César’s faith helped sustain him during struggles that he saw in his 31 years of work with farm workers?
  • Why do you think that people are so quickly satisfied with their own righteousness? What do you think is at the root at the root of spiritual complacence?
  • Reflect on the statement that César had read after he broke his fast. How is it related to the Sermon on the Mount?
  • Do you think that Jesus was speaking metaphorically or literally when he said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled?”
  • Do you think César’s hunger for righteousness was filled?

page 13-16 of Witnesses to the Kingdom: The Beatitudes Embodied by Matthew Smalley. National Farm Worker Ministry 2005.

Litanies and Responsive Prayers

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LITANTY OF CHRISTIAN HOPE


From scripture and the words of Cesar Chavez


Leader: When we are really honest with ourselves, we must admit that our lives are all that really belong to us. So, it is how we use our lives that determines what kind of people we are. It is my deepest belief that only by giving do we find life.

Response: FOR WHOSOEVER WOULD SAVE HIS OR HER LIFE WILL LOSE IT, AND WHOEVER LOSES HIS OR HER LIFE FOR MY SAKE, WILL FIND IT.

Leader: But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. God gave us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth.

Response: THEREFORE, CHOOSE LIFE THAT YOU AND YOUR DESCENDANTS MAY LIVE.

Leader: Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose us are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and our spirits and the just of our cause.

Response: FOR THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD IS WISER THAN HUMAN KIND, AND THE WEAKNESS OF GOD IS STRONGER THAN HUMAN KIND.

Leader: We can choose to use our lives for others to bring about a better and a more just world for our children. People who make that choice will know hardship and sacrifice. But if you give yourself totally to the non-violent struggle for peace and justice, you also find that people will give you their hearts and you will never go hungry and you will never be alone. In giving yourself, you will discover a whole new life full of meaning and love.

Response: BUT THEY WHO WAIT FOR THE LORD SHALL RENEW THEIR STRENGTH. THEY SHALL MOUNT UP WITH THE WINGS LIKE EAGLES. THEY SHALL RUN AND NOT BE WEARY: THEY SHALL WALK AND NOT FAINT.

Leader: What do we want the churches to do? We don’t ask for more cathedrals. We don’t ask for bigger churches or fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, as God among us. We ask the churches to sacrifice with the people for social justice, and for love of brother and sister. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds… a multitude of simple deeds for justice, carried out by men and women whose hearts are focused on the suffering of the poor and who yearn, with us, for a better world. Together, all things are possible!

Response: ASK AND IT WILL BE GIVEN TO YOU: SEEK AND YOU WILL FIND: KNOCK AND IT WILL BE OPENED TO YOU. AMEN. AMEN.
 
 
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INTERCESSIONS


Leader: For the reconciliation of all people through the revolution of non-violent love…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For churches and synagogues, that they may be humbled, reformed, united…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For all poor and hungry, migrant workers, outcast and unemployed…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: For victims of discrimination, harassment and brutality…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: That farmworkers may someday win the justice they seek…

Response: We pray, O God.

Leader: That with compassion and fidelity we may work for a better world…

Response: We pray, O God.

Pause for Personal Intentions… (Respond: We pray, O God.)

Leader: For the labors of those whose backs are sore from bending, whose lungs cry for air free of dust and poisonous fumes, whose labors enable us to eat…

Response: We pray, O God.
 
 
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AFFIRMATION OF CHRISTIAN FAITH

Leader: We believe in God,

Women: Whose breath gives energy for the struggle,

Men: Whose power goes beyond human weakness

Leader: We believe in Christ,

Women: Whose solidarity accompanies all our deaths,

Men: Whose life frees us to the resurrection.

Leader: We believe in the Spirit,

Women: Who liberates us from powerlessness

Men: And brings us toward all truth.

Leader: We believe in God the Holy Trinity,

All: Whose grace upholds our being, whose unity call us to be the church an to live out the hope of the Kingdom.
 
 
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A CHRISTIAN CONFESSION

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers like Isaiah and Jesus,
People: And we throw them out or nail them to crosses. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers of your Word,
People: And we claim they are extremists or radicals or idealists. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers,
People: And we divert our attention or turn up the TV or talk about “practicalities” so we won’t be disturbed. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you send us truth-speakers,
People: And we ignore them because they remind us that we are implicated in this injustice. Have mercy.

Leader: God, you incessantly send us truth-speakers,
People: And we seek to hide from your call to participate in bringing lasting justice. Have mercy on us all.
 
 
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A THANKSGIVING LITANY


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Speaker: O God of seed and harvest, the meal before us is a sight to behold and we are grateful.

Response: The meat and the vegetables, the fruit and bread, the drink and fellowship of this meal are gifts from Your mighty hand and outstretched arm

Speaker: This turkey has given up life so that we might have life.

Response: We are mindful of the sacrifice—the exchange of death for life—associated with our being fed and nourished.

Speaker: From egg to chick to bird to food, countless human hands have brought this turkey to our table.

Response: We are grateful for the farmers, the poultry plant workers, the shippers and market place workers, and those who have prepared this meal.

Speaker: We are sorry and repent for any suffering, abuse or exploitation that workers feel as the result of their labor on our behalf.

Response: We commit ourselves to eat this meal in peace, and rise from this table for work for justice and harmony on the earth and among the people of the earth.

ALL: Taste and see how good God is!
 
 
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A CHRISTIAN LABOR DAY LITANY


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Leader: O Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, on this Labor Day we thank You for Your care and loving concern for workers throughout the world. We remember all workers: men and women; young and old; all races, ethnic and language groups in Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Africa, North Africa, North America, Central America and the Caribbean, South America and the Middle East. Help all working personal realize a deeper understanding of Your presence, and call them to do justice and build human community where they are employed.

Leader: For workers who face dangerous conditions or hazards in their work without sufficient warning or protection,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all who face the conflicts of working and caring for children without adequate support,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers who cannot find work and for whom unemployment assistance is not available,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For workers who are displaced by technical change or global pressures to relocate jobs,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For children whose childhood has been cut short because they are forced to work,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all who face difficulties or are discriminated against in getting work or at the workplace because of race, gender, ethnicity, physical disabilities, political or religious beliefs or sexual orientation,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers who have been affected by labor disputes or who have been discriminate against as a result of their union activity or because they sought justice in their place of employment,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer.

Leader: For all workers whose work is taken for granted, is unappreciated or lacks meaning,
All: Jesus, worker and carpenter from Nazareth, hear our prayer. Amen.
 
 
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JUSTICE FOR FARMWORKERS


from Interfaith Worker Justice, www.nicwj.org

Leader: God of Seed and Harvest, we give thanks to You for Your graciousness. As Your people, we know that we are called to be attentive to the workers who harvest food for our tables. These workers often suffer hardships to bring us our feed. Keep us mindful of farmworkers and their struggles. Keep us attentive tot heir cries for justice and dignity. For the 20,000 strawberry workers of California, who work up to twelve hours a day in the fields without clean drinking water or bathrooms, and in the midst of pesticides.

All: We pray for the men and women in the fields to be loved more than the profits they bring.

Leader: For the fifteen thousand tomato workers in Southwest Florida who have organized for fair wages and working conditions, yet the tomato growers refuse to respond to the workers and recognize their union.

All: We pray for the courage to respond.

Leader: For the thousands of pickle workers who toil in six-hundred pickle farms in North Carolina. These workers earn only half what Ohio pickle workers make under union contracts.

All: We pray that ALL workers be treated with fairness and dignity.

Leader: For each farmworker whose average life span is only fifty years, compared to more than seventy for other Americans.

All: We pray for the courage to advocate for justice in an economy that deems some lives more valuable than others.

Leader: We give thanks for leaders like Cesar Chavez, who throughout history have advocated for the basic rights and freedoms of farmworkers. We pray that their vision for love and justice will continue to burn brightly.

All: O God, keep us mindful of farmworkers. Keep our ears open to their cries for justice. May we be nourished and strengthened to work for justice and compassion. Amen.
 
 
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LITANY OF THANKS


from National Catholic Rural Life Conference www.ncrlc.com

Leader: For the gift of life and a place at the banquet of life,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For America’s heritage of land and abundant resources,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the bread on our tables and the bread on our altars which sustains our life,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For our families and the security their love gives us,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the blessings of a bountiful harvest and economic security,
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Leader: For the prophets and peacemakers everywhere in the world
Response: Let us always be thankful!

Add other prayers which you wish to voice, responding with “Let us always be thankful.”
 
 
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CONFESSION AND PARDON

Unison: God of all ages and peoples, God of all times and beyond time, Hear our prayers.

Men: Forgive us, O loving Creator, for our deafness and blindness and muteness of spirit. Forgive us, 0 Lifegiver, for the evil we have wrought, the corrosion we have brought to the intricate sculpturing that is your creation

Women: Forgive us our participation in oppression, whether it be on the grand scale of government and church, or on the minor scale of family and home Forgive us those things we did with awareness as well as those things we did unaware of the dominance given us by accidents of wealth, nationality, color or gender.

Unison: We make our confessions of neglect, or corruption, Of failing to take ourselves seriously. We confess, trusting that these uplifted prayers. Already initiate the healing of all who dwell in lonely exile here.

Leader: The Good News is present among us. Even in our brokenness, in our separation from ourselves, from God and from one another, there is that Grace that makes us whole.

Let us turn to each other and extend the sign of forgiveness and peace. Peace be with you!

Unison: And also with you!

(Extend The Peace to those around you with an embrace, a kiss, or a handshake.)
 
 
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PRAYER OF OFFERING


Leader: We offer and dedicate our gifts and lives to God.
Reader: We confront anew the way in which your power works, O Eternal One. You came as one of us — frail, human, limited and bound. Your power expressed itself in the gentle breathing of a newborn infant, in the stumbling of a child and in the frustrations of an adult.

You let us know that your power and your love are identical. We rejoice that you have extended your special care to all of us. We offer you our newly-discovered power, Which does not seek to coerce or dominate, But to enhance the wonder of your creation.

Leader: Accept our offerings, we pray. Loving God. Breathe into them and into us the possibilities of new life throughout the earth. Amen.
 
 
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PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING

Leader: Let us praise God in gladness and humility for all great and simple joys; for the weak things of the earth which have confounded the strong.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For birds; for children and the gladness of innocence; for the joy of work attempted and achieved; for the joy of harvest and the wedding feast.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the glory of God shining in common-place lives; for husband and wife scheming to please one another; for the sacrifices of both for their children.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For all who have loved the common people and borne their sorrows in their hearts; for all obscure and humble saints.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the multitude of nameless saints and farm worker ministers who for nearly 80 years have given of themselves to the farm workers of America.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: For the men, women and children who feed us all, for their leaders and all who have risked a safe and secure life to serve their just cause.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!

Leader: And for each other, who believe and hope and love and work and laugh together in a common struggle for justice and peace.
Response: Glory be to you. 0 God!
 
 
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INTERCESSORY PRAYER

Leader: Let us seek God’s help in the struggle for justice for farm workers.

People: For the workers who harvest the food that comes to our tables, may they have a living wage. Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: May the seeds of our actions produce a harvest of justice.

People: For the fruits of decent housing, health care, and hope for the future. Lord, hear our prayer.

Leader: May the church be filled with the Holy Spirit to be in solidarity with the workers.

People: For strength to the organizers who work for the fruits of justice. Lord, hear our prayer.

All: God bless our hearts and our hands in this harvest of justice. Amen.
 
 
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PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

Leader: Are we the People who live for others? Whose human relations are charged with forgiveness?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP. WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the People who walk the second mile when one mile would do?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the ones who turn the other cheek? Who give the shirt off our backs when our coat is gone?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we a community recognized and known by our love?
Assembly: WE PRAY THAT WE ARE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: When the poor of the world ask us for bread, do we give them a stone? When they ask us for fish, do we reach them a serpent?
Assembly: NEVER. GOD HELP US; NEVER.

Leader: Do we care only for those who care about us? Do we serve only those who will tell us how grateful they are?
Assembly: NO, GOD HELP US; NEVER.

Leader: Are we the People who thirst for a Justice that promises cannot slake?
Assembly: YES, WE ARE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the People who are restless enough to make peace? Who are strong enough to be gentle, and gentle enough, to resist violence?
Assembly: WITH GOD’S HELP, WE WILL BE THAT PEOPLE.

Leader: Are we the ones who take seriously our titles “-“Salt of the earth” — “Light of the world” —”Leaven of our society?”
Assembly: YES, WE ARE THE ONES.

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Cesar Chavez

cesarlooking.jpgCesar Chavez was the founder of the United Farm Workers. He advocated tirelessly for justice in the struggle to achieve equality for farm workers. Click here to learn more about Cesar and what you can do to bring lessons to your home community.

NFWM staff travel to Sacramento with farm workers to share their stories with state legislators

fwlobbydaysacramento_0.jpgOn Thursday, April 23, the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’s death, about 100 farm workers traveled to the State Capitol in Sacramento to share their stories with Assemblymembers of California’s state legislature. Their stories touched on the harsh reality that farm workers still live in today, specifically related to access to such basic needs as drinking water on the job.

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Celebrate Cesar’s Birthday during Farm Worker Awareness Week

cesarlooking.jpgIn the spring, NFWM traditionally encourages each of our supporters to celebrate Cesar’s birthday by sharing your commitment to farm worker justice with others. Your commitment changes others.

Use this time of celebration & remembrance to continue Cesar’s work. Look over the ideas and resources below and choose something that works for you.

Quotes from Cesar Chavez

“What do we want the church to do? We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice and for love of brother and sister. We don’t ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don’t ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.”
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Contact us

National Farm Worker Ministry
P.O. Box 10645
112 Cox Ave., Suite 208
Raleigh, NC 27605
Email us here
919-807-8707 (office)