Dear Friend of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
On the first Holy Thursday, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and said, “I have given you an example to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
On Holy Thursday 2015, I joined a group that tried to do as he did.
We visited Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in the migrant worker community of Immokalee, Florida. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe overlooked our bags of food upon which children had written “Happy Easter” in Spanish and English. (See the photo.)
From the church, we delivered the food to the families of the migrant workers who live in dilapidated trailer parks. (See the photo). They received us with embarrassment and shame, but welcomed us into their clean homes. (See the photo). They do the best that they can with what they have.
They are very gracious. One man said, “It’s nice to know that there are still good people like you in the world.” In thanksgiving, he gave us some of the tomatoes and oranges that he had picked.
“Immokalee” means “my home” in the native Seminole Indian language. Today, it is the home of many migrant farm laborers from Mexico, Guatemala and Haiti. They come to Florida as refugees from war, devastated economies or broken societies.
Immokalee is the center of the southern Florida migrant labor industry. The workers live in ramshackle mobile homes in trailer parks that house multiple families and individuals who share the rent and divide the trailer into multiple living quarters. Immokalee is also the home of Our Lady of Guadalupe church. This church services the migrant laborers and helps to feed and clothe them.
Many of the migrant laborers’ day begins at 5 AM, when they meet at the town square to board the buses that take them to the tomato and orange fields. The youngest and strongest men (no women are wanted) compete in a survival of the fittest to get on the buses for a day’s work. Their day continues as they pick their crops from dawn to dusk for annual wages that are less than the minimum wage. They suffer from unjust wages and unjust living and working conditions. Their day ends in exhaustion.
The Church has always contemplated the image of Christ in immigrants. Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you made me welcome.” (Matthew 25:35). Jesus himself was an immigrant who was born in a manger and fled with his mother and virgin father into Egypt where they were foreigners.
Over 75% of the saints of the states were immigrants. Let us pray that the needs of these new immigrants will be met through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. John Neumann and Mother Cabrini, the missionaries to the early immigrants. For more information, you may read my book, Saints of the States here.
As the children wrote on our food bags, may you too have a happy and holy Easter!
Sincerely in Christ,