Monday, May 4, 2015


{Hoping you can begin something similar in your faith community}

Jesus Washes the Feet of the Apostles
In the summer of 1966, when 19 years old, I came to Capac, MI to work with Fr. Joe Melton from the Detroit diocese in migrant farmworker ministry.   He spoke fluent Spanish having accepted the invitation of Cardinal Dearden to live in Puerto Rico and learn the language to be able to better serve the growing number of Hispanic Catholics.

That first year I made frequent visits to the camps, forming some young adult discussion groups, with the help of members of the local parishes, volunteer groups from Marygrove College, and a Quaker service agency.   It was an ambitious project with high enthusiasm and little experience to guide us—the meeting of different cultures in their small shacks, and the town’s church, was the tortillas y frijoles of the project.  Two and a half months of stretching across language, life style, and economic barriers.  Fr. Joe was a constant encouragement, and I’d come often to daily mass for the prayer with him and other members of the parish, and to then go over our ongoing activities.

It was such a good summer, with great hopes in shared service, just sitting down with young people who were always on the move, learning how we were alike and different.   I returned the two following years.  Those times I lived in the migrant camps, and got up at 4:30 am with them to travel in old school buses to often distant fields to pick pickles, or hoe sugar beets, from the cold dew before daylight to dusk.   I contributed my scant earnings, they invited me into their homes, coffee, warm tortillas, and more always offered.   For me money wasn’t an issue.  Fr. Joe had arranged for support from the local Deanery of Catholic Women, enough to cover my college tuition the following year.   Fr. Farrell and Fr. O’Neill of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, pastors of his main parish, opened their doors also to my efforts.
Junior and Paulina - married at St. Nicholas Church, mission of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel,  Emmett, MI -- 1967

By getting to know the people of the camps better, and each other’s needs, there came trust, and some new job training opportunities were created so some migrants could find more stability.  My friends Junior and Paulina after six years common law marriage and four kids [she was one year older than me] celebrated a church wedding.  Ten years later he was dead—someone from a vendetta from an earlier fight or marijuana deal.  It was a very hard, short life for some of them.  My first ventures into disarmament were 2 scimitar pocket knives, handles carved from cows’ horns, and a 10 gauge sawed-off shotgun—going away presents from the few of those that had such things, at end of season.  Fr. Joe was a constant servant of us all, making things possible, from church liturgies, to farmworker and farmers union support, to rummage sales benefiting the migrants.

Cesar Chavez accepts bread from Father Joe Melton to end his 24-day Fast for Justice, Phoenix, Arizona

This opportunity was such a blessing in my life.  I began to have a working knowledge of Spanish—becoming bi-lingual as most of these farmworkers already were.  My faith was strengthened, my horizons were expanded—such an important gift for a young adult to feel the beauty, difficulty, and rightness of service, and Gospel beliefs.  Fr. Joe had shared part of his ministry with me.  It is prayer-study-action Holy Spirit fire that keeps me going to this day.  The hope now is that this experience of service, and similar stories from many others in our local faith community, can invite and inspire a wealth of opportunities for our next generations.  We are asking the many more members of our parish who’ve been on mission and service projects, to tell us their stories, and join in support of this young adult faith formation.

For more information on Youth Service Opportunities, and to help, contact Michael McCarthy [810 982 2870] and this committee under Holy Trinity’s Christian Service Commission.  Our new objective:
 To expand youth service and formation opportunities for the young members of our parish
1.   Form committee within Christian Service, with assistance from Pax Christi and the Youth Ministry groups, to explore the available shorter and longer service projects available to our high school, college and young adult members and their friends.
2.   Investigate the opportunities and make the valuable ones known and available to our young people and their families—helping to vet, choose, apply, and follow through on arrangements.

 {And in the future.}
  1. Begin the process of forming a scholarship fund to aid in the expenses that many service projects entail [assist also in tapping already existing supports as provided for by programs like AmeriCorps, Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and others listed in the Catholic Volunteer Network manual]
  2. Invite the involvement of as many in our church community and broader community—the youth to serve, and as many as possible to give prayer, financial and mentoring support to young people interested in service, a way to make vibrant the formation of their faith in Christ.
  3. Explore the possibilities of uniting on the vicariate and diocesan levels, and in the interfaith community, with others interested in these efforts.

“It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” – The Cristophers

“Take up your cross and follow me.”  Mt 16:24

Illumination by Kathy Brahney

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