Mexicans

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

December 13, 2001

 

Adios y Gracias

 

            Our small Mexican community turned out in force for the evening mass on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I wasn’t too surprised.  We were going to have a little convivio (celebration) after mass to mark this very important day in Mexican life.  Since they are far from home here in Maryland, both geographically and culturally,  I figured they would want to celebrate.

            However, I was very surprised to see how sad they all looked.  Some were even crying.

Before mass one of the men told me why.  The factory were most of them worked,  packing crab meat and oysters, was closing up.  All of them had lost their jobs that afternoon.

Since they are here on temporary workers visas each season, they would all be sent home to Mexico in a couple of days. 

Not only were they facing Christmas unemployed, but now they might ever be able to return to the U.S. to work again.  Almost certainly, they would not be able to return to this little community in Maryland.

They were very sad, because they had come to be a part of our parish and community.  Every feast day and every event, we looked forward to their contribution.  We looked forward to their singing, their humor, their food and their devotion.

When I told the people at mass that the crab house was closing, we were all sad.  For us too, it marked the end of an era.  People have been pulling crabs and oysters out of the rivers and the Chesapeake Bay around here for hundreds of years.  Now the yield was too small to sustain even one processing plant.

            The Mexicans had come here from central Mexico, five nights and days on the bus, to work for low wages.  They do jobs that the locals would no longer do.  They were universally poorer than most of the Anglos in our parish.

            But they contributed something that any parish desperately needs.  They made us aware of who we are and what we are about.  They reminded us of the universal church.  That we are not just a community of mostly white, mostly middle class, all English speaking Americans.  The Catholic Church is every race, nation and tongue.  In a word, it is Catholic.

            They also made us aware of the needs of the poor and the third world.  We need that.  Like Paul said to the church in ancient Greece, we need to be mindful of the poor.  That is part of what it is to be church.

They gave us our sister parish in Mexico.   A place where we could build a relationship with people in the third world.  This year our children collected 25 cents each to send books to the children in their parish (in Spanish).

The workers here reminded us of the value and dignity of hard work.  They did jobs that our own young people would never dream of doing anymore.

I have long thought that the church in the United States would be saved by the Hispanic presence now growing among us.  We need to be mindful of the poor.  We need their joy and their cultural ease with Catholicism.  We need their witness and prayer.

            At mass we all prayed that Our Lady of Guadalupe would send our Mexican community back again.  Not just for their sake, but for ours.