By Antonio Illas
I am honored and blessed to serve in the Diocese of Niagara, ministering to the hardworking Spanish-speaking migrant farmworkers from Mexico and Central America in the Niagara Region, home to 96 wineries, 1,800 farms and 200 greenhouses. These seasonal migrants that number about 4,000 in the Niagara Region are our neighbors for eight months of the year.
This ministry started in 2013 as an outreach ministry at St. Alban’s Anglican Church Beamsville. Today, it has expanded to serve migrant workers at St. John’s Anglican Church Jordan and Christ Church McNab Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Project engages migrant farmworkers, farmers, community partners and volunteers. The Project provides the seasonal workers access to needed services, address their holistic needs of including physical, mental and spiritual health. It builds welcoming relationships and spaces with seasonal workers and supports those engaged with them.
A migrant farmworker riding his bike in Beamsville was the spark for the genesis of this ministry. The Project engages the migrant farmworkers’ community by operating a Bikes for Farmworkers program; health clinic; clothing bank; community meal; visits to the farms and provides spiritual, liturgical and pastoral care.
I would like to share a story about Luis a farmworker from Mexico who has been coming to Canada for the past 29 years. Luis is very grateful for the opportunity to have been able to come to work in the agricultural lands in Canada and financially sustain his family in Mexico. During his long 29 years of his travels to Canada he has seen his children grow and become professionals. And, although, he could stay in Mexico and not return to Canada Luis continues to come to work to Canada because he feels a calling to serve his co-workers from Mexico. Luis has become an elder for the young migrant farmworkers.
During a recent fire at the greenhouse where Luis is employed, he accompanied the twenty men and woman that lost all their belongings to the fire. Luis who told them about our ministry. It was Luis and another volunteer the ones that took charge and responsibility to deliver donations to his twenty colleagues in need of assistance. Luis ended his 2019 season in Canada and returned to Mexico in September and when I asked him, “Are you coming again?” he responded, “Sí, padre.” This ministry provides Luis and the other migrant workers a place to connect and build relationships as their needs are addressed. In the middle of the fire tragedy relationships were built and stories were shared between the migrant farmworkers and the local community. Canadians responded in kind and charity.
Finally, every day when we eat our breakfast, lunch and dinner lets be mindful for the migrant workers’ hard labor and intense work in the fields that make possible for us to enjoy the fruits and vegetables. Every Sunday when we see the beautiful flowers in our altars and partake of the wine during Communion lets be mindful and grateful for the hard labor of the migrant farmworkers.
Synod Delegates Support Migrant Farmworkers
New diocesan technology available to all
Together, we raised $1,500 for the Migrant Farmworker Project at Synod 2019.
Thank you for supporting this important ministry and extending generosity and hospitality to Migrant Farmworkers in the Niagara region.
As we raised funds together the Diocesan Office tested their two secure, tap to pay, systems. These systems are now available to your parish. These phones can be set up to take secure payments at events and can also support tap to donate for your events.
Many Canadians are no longer carrying cash. This can impact the ability for your church bazaar, bake sale and other fundraisers to make money. For events that do not require a receipt these tap to pay systems can be borrowed and set up to take payments.
You can now program this tap to pay system for your needs.
We are delighted to roll out this new system. Please connect with the Finance Office at the Diocesan Office for more information.