Father Vincent Albano, who has been serving the needs of the migrant farm workers for over four decades, recently shared information about his current mission. He is wrapping up his season of service in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana with the assistance of three SOLT sisters. Since SOLT has been a part of the migrant ministry from its inception, the opportunity to look back into history presented itself with this story that was recounted in Father Albano’s own words. The historical passages were excerpted from The Original Communion, a collection of autobiographical accounts of original members of SOLT, and the final paragraph is Father Albano’s update.
Ministry to the migrant farm workers and their families was an apostolic work of SOLT from its very beginning. Called to serve the poorest of the poor and recognizing their great needs, our founder, Father James Flanagan, sent sister and lay members of SOLT to the migrant fields and camps in Rocky Ford, Colorado when the SOLT was still in New Mexico.
SOLT’s migrant ministry branched out to Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska by the time I was assigned to this ministry. Besides serving the migrant farm workers, we were asked to reach out to the many Spanish speaking local people who were residents in those areas and who were lacking pastoral care in their own language. They too benefited greatly from the migrant team’s presence and were helped to develop leadership skills and abilities to serve alongside the members of the migrant team.
The migrant worker team visited the migrants in the fields, ranches and local camps, taught catechesis, prepared children and young people for their First Holy Communion and Confirmation, baptized, married, prepared the Liturgy, celebrated the Eucharist and witnessed the presence of the Church among their brothers and sisters “on the move.” These experiences helped the local people as well as our migrant farm workers, recognizing that they too were given by God with gifts and talents to share with their brothers and sisters and are called to be the Church and to build up the Church in their parishes as well as keep the ministry to Hispanic and migrant people alive and growing with the migrant team was no longer there.
Presently, I am with three of our Sisters ( Srs Maria de Jesus, Maria Marta and Maria Asuncion) serving in Migrant Farmworker Ministry in the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana from August to September. We will have a Despedida (farewell) Mass for the families on September 24 with Bishop Timothy Doherty and some of the children and young people will receive their First Holy Communion and Confirmation. The local parish St Mary’s in Alexandria, hosts the Mass and provides a special fiesta meal afterwards for all the migrant workers who come. We bless the cars and the pick-up trucks that the families come in for their safe travels home to Texas, Florida or other places!