Since August of 2013, I have been privileged to serve as the representative for the Society of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) to the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM) Board of Directors.
The RSCJ community publishes a monthly Update with news of the communities and the leadership. For November, NFWM’s Harvest of Justice logo and Cesar Chavez’s farm worker prayer were printed on the cover and inside was the invitation to participate in a tradition of the farm worker movement — hosting a sacrificial meal honoring the hands that harvest our food. The Oakwood Retirement Community in California accepted the invitation and shared their experience in the December Update. I am delighted to share this with the NFWM community.
Marilyn Lorenz-Weinkauff, RSCJ Associate
It all began with the cover of the November UPDATE and Marilyn Lorenz Weinkauff’s article “Harvest of Justice Season”, suggesting a sacrificial meal honoring the hands that harvest our food, with the money saved going to the United Farm Workers.
Clare Pratt brought the idea to the Community Council and we decided to have a simple supper of soup and bread the day before Thanksgiving.
Knowing of Be Mardel’s two weeks in jail with the farmworkers in the 1970s when she was Provincial, Clare asked her if she would speak of the experience at our community reunion which she did. We were all ears as she spoke of Dorothy Day visiting as well as Cesar Chavez, of refusing to be released after a day if the farmworkers were not, of having the Eucharist in the barracks where the women were housed, of days of retreat and night adoration. Someone asked if Be knew what the situation was today with the farmworkers and she said that she did not know but would find out.
A day later she had posted a bulletin board with information from 2013 and 2014 as well as photos and images and the UFW shirt given her by a farmworker in gratitude for her being with them in jail.
As interest grew we decided to invite our staff to share the meal with us. It began with the prayer on the cover of UPDATE, recited in English and in Spanish. Wonderful sharing went on during the meal as we heard stories from our own staff. We ended by singing “We shall overcome”.
That afternoon at reunion we shared our experiences of the meal. One recounted that she had been in tears during it, for it brought back her 30 years ministering to migrant workers. Others were touched by stories of staff members’ lives never heard before.
The next day, Thanksgiving , we had many guests for Mass and Dinner. We put a basket out at the entrance to our chapel for donations to the farmworkers. There was a generous response. We were able to send $500 – a combination of the $200 saved by having the simple meal and $300 of Thanksgiving donations.
We are grateful to Marilyn whose article touched us and sparked the idea of the sacrificial meal. Now we look forward to another holy meal, this time during Holy Week. Perhaps the Wednesday of Holy Week, only this time we will have a washing of one another’s hands at the table.
Clare Pratt, RSCJ
Show me the suffering of the most miserable, so I may know my people’s plight.
Free me to pray for others, for you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life, so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve others, for in service there is true life.
Give me honesty and patience, so that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration, so that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow, so that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice, for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us, so we can change the world. Amen.