Our Sister Maricela Martinez is prominent this month; she has been sent to share joy and hope in the midst of the struggles and expectations lived by migrants in Michigan. We invite you to read this article “Fields where the Kingdom Happens”.
In our Constitutions, as Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word (CCVI) we read about the legacy of our founder, Monsignor Claude Marie Dubuis, who wrote: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, suffering in a multitude of the sick and infirm of every kind, seeks relief at your hands.” CCVI Const. No. II. Motivated by the Christ’s Gospel, by this Foundational Letter and by Pope Francis’ calling to be disciples and missioners, I want to share with you my experience which has been an encounter, a dialogue and an opportunity for growth with extraordinary people.
In 2014, during the Summer, I had contact with migrant families in the territory of the Grand Rapids Diocese, in Missouri. This first encounter with families gave me the opportunity to have an attitude for learning, identifying a process for accompanying these families and collaborating in the evangelizing task.
Now, the missioner activity is developed jointly with St. Francis de Sales Parish, in Holland, St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parishes in Grand Haven, and St. Mary´s Parish, in Muskegon. At that time, and now, there are opportunities to visit the migrant families in the nearby fields in Holland, Grand Haven, and Muskegon. The families in these areas come from México, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
I think that it is vital to devote time to the families in order to listen to their stories, including their hopes and their fears. My task is to connect them with different institutions devoted to offer attention to migrants. Each conversation gives me a greater understanding of the challenges they face in their long journey to cross the border between Mexico and the United States and then become part of the work environment in the fields. I remember, for example, a couple from Oaxaca that started harvesting crops in California, and today they have a group of three hundred persons who move through four states of the Union. One of the main activities of migrants is harvesting different types of crops. As a matter of fact, Michigan is considered the fourth and last state where they work harvesting crops.
Being in contact with migrant families has been an accompanying process. Listening to these extraordinary persons led me to make a commitment to continue visiting them in the fields, while the harvest season is in force. When I come to their homes, they express with confidence their problems, their needs and the good wishes they have for their children. Hospitality is one of the characteristics of the migrants and they enjoy sharing their food, for example, “tortillas”, beans and “mole”.
The families manifest their gratitude for the missionary presence of the priest, the sisters and the lay persons who have a commitment with them. They are grateful with us for our visits in the fields, listening to the family, responding to their basic needs and sharing the bread. For me, migrant families are a privileged space for evangelization.
Every summer, we have the Migrant Season with the participation of 23 lay persons who have a commitment with this task, parishioners who want to collaborate by helping the families in the fields. For this reason, after the experience of the parishioners, lay persons who make a commitment to visit the fields and spend time with the migrant families, I have developed courses on Integral Missionary Formation. In 2016, the first generation completed the course, and the second generation will complete it in 2017.
Therefore, this summer 2017, we are visiting 25 nearby fields in Holland, Grand Haven, and Muskegon, Missouri. Our purpose is to welcome the migrant families and to identify their primary needs. The members of the team are a priest from the Foreign Missions Institute in Yarumal, one Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word, 23 lay persons with a commitment, and 4 young people.
We ask you to pray for us and we ask the Incarnate Word to keep is in the joy of His Gospel so we can go out and meet our migrant brothers and sisters in the outskirts of the city, because that is the place where we believe and want to serve Our Lord Jesus Christ who is suffering in a multitude of sick and infirm of very kind.
By Sr. Maricela Martínez
Published originally in the Blog of the Congregational Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation,