Farm workers have been coming to Canada under the federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program since 1966. While there are no official statistics published, this practice is a growing phenomenon.
Farm workers are predominantly men who come to Canada to work for up to 8 months each year leaving their families behind so they can provide better futures for them. They miss births, baptisms, first communions and even funerals of their loved ones to provide for their families here in Canada.
Of great concern has been that there has been minimal support from the Catholic community to provide pastoral care. This had provided an opportunity for Protestant denominations who are outwardly seeking the migrants providing them with simple hospitality which they so desperately lack.
The Catholic Church has identified a greater need and requirement to renew and expand the farm worker ministry in more parishes in the valley and south of the Fraser River.
“Migrants are often victims of illegal recruitment and of short-term contracts providing poor working and living conditions. This is because they often have to suffer physical, verbal and even sexual abuse, work long hours, often without the benefits of medical care and the usual forms of social security.” (Erga Migrantes Caritas Christi, 6, 10)
We have intentionally focused on the farm worker community to ensure pastoral care is provided while they reside and work in the lower mainland.
St Joseph parish in Langley, St Ann parish in Abbotsford and St Luke parish in Maple Ridge have been offering regular mass and practical services. Precious Blood and Sacred Heart (Ladner) have recently come on board. Moreover, we wish to extend offerings and ensure we provide the opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation, bible study and prayer groups amongst others.