Migrant Farmworkers Project Celebrates a Decade of Service

 on March 14, 2023

This year we celebrate a decade of service to migrant farmworkers in the Niagara region. From the first service in the fall of 2013 at St. Alban’s Beamsville to this year, we have been a ministry of presence and support to our migrant farmworker neighbours from Mexico and Central America. We have learned to welcome, acknowledge, and appreciate their hard work in our agricultural fields, vineyards, orchards, and greenhouses.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Migrant Farmworkers Project experienced changes due to the pandemic restrictions, which included the closure of diocesan buildings used by the ministry. The ministry moved from church buildings to the agricultural fields. Volunteers have been resilient in spite of the adversities of the pandemic. The ministry has emerged stronger from the two-year COVID-19 pandemic.

In April 2022 the St. Alban’s Hub Beamsville, a new ministry approach to welcome and practise hospitality, was launched. The Hub volunteers intentionally engage our seasonal migrant workers by sharing stories and making friendship connections. This ministry is one of hospitality and solidarity with the migrant farmworkers we serve.

Solidarity is not just charity! Solidarity is loving your neighbour and making community, especially with the vulnerable and marginalized in our neighbourhood.

Migrant Farmworkers Project is a ministry that incarnates our baptismal covenant as we seek and serve Christ in all persons, including our migrant farmworker neighbours, and strive for justice and respect their dignity.

The St. Alban’s Hub Beamsville also incarnates hospitality and respects the autonomy and dignity of every migrant farmworker who enters through the doors to seek services. It offers the migrant farmworkers a forum or community of faith to connect with them and facilitate their experience or a sense of belonging to our society while they are in Canada during their work season. Our volunteers are eager to connect, share stories, and serve them.

In April 2022, the St. Alban’s Hub Beamsville started weekly social justice services and outreach. Under one roof the seasonal workers can benefit from six different programs: Bikes for Farmworkers, Quest Healthcare Centre (partnership medical clinic), “Tiendita” (Thrift Shop), “Abarrotes” (Food Pantry), Pastoral Care and Sacraments, and the Migrant Workers Café & Welcome Lounge. The café room was Fr. Dan’s idea, as rector of St. Alban’s Beamsville he dreamed of a way for the parishioners and volunteers to practice hospitality. In the café room and welcome lounge migrant farmworkers live and experience hospitality

The Migrant Workers Café & Welcome Lounge was an immediate success with the seasonal workers. As the migrant workers enter the St. Alban’s Hub it is the first room area they encounter. In the café and lounge the migrant worker can relax, connect to the internet, socialize with other seasonal workers from different farms and meet the volunteers, as well as enjoy a nutritious and delicious soup, cookies, drinks, etc. As the 2022 season came to a close it was realized that the café room needed to be remodeled to improve and facilitate a better service and to make the room cozier. St. John’s Winona provided the first donation to renovate the café room and lounge. Additional grant funding to upgrade the café room is pending.

Finally, Migrant Farmworkers Project provides the opportunity to local parishioners in the Diocese of Niagara to do mission work right here in Niagara.  Parishioners don’t have to fly to Mexico or Central America; all they need to do is drive to St. Alban’s Beamsville to do missions work with a very grateful Spanish-speaking community.

  • Antonio Illas

    The Reverend Antonio Illas is Migrant Farmworkers Project Missioner for the Diocese of Niagara.

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