Living Hope Newsletter – August 2008
Claretians bring hope to Migrant Workers in Fresno
In the parish of St. Anthony Claret in Fresno, California, Claretians find that their work extends well beyond the parish grounds. The church is located in the heart of farm country where multitudes of migrant workers live. The majority of the migrants are Catholic, coming from Mexico to work the harvests.
“We reach out to them in a pastoral manner, to get to know the migrants and their needs,” says Father Gabriel Ruiz, C.M.F., pastor. “Our hope is to respond to them where they are.”
Located within 30 miles of St. Anthony Claret Church, migrant communities consist of people who live in camps and some who live in apartments. The demographic is largely young men, but there are also families, so their needs include everything from basic necessities such as food, medical care, and clothing, to sacramental preparation.
“Our groups of parishioners make visits to four different camps every week,” says Father Ruiz. “There are all kinds of very sad stories among these people, so we do what we can to help.”
The stories are generally about the need for transportation, the fear of separation from family, or the need for healthcare. One 19 year old named Juan has suffered from a broken leg for five years. He had no access to health care until the Claretians put him in touch with a nurse, who in turn helped him see a doctor. “It’s very frustrating to see them struggle with no clear solution to their problems,” Father Ruiz says.
Services St. Anthony Claret Parish provides include citizenship and English classes, counseling, clothing, and food. The parish food pantry servers about 50 families a week. Migrants come to the church for food but the parish groups also take food out to the camps, where there are about 300 people in each camp.
“I especially like to be able to take the sacraments to them,” says Father Ruiz. “Otherwise they might not have them at all.”
The Claretians in China
A factory in Nanjing, China looks like it could manufacture any number of products. But what the hundreds of Chinese workers laboring over loud machines are making might surprise you: Bibles.
The demand for Bibles is turning the world’s biggest atheist nation into the world’s largest supplier of the Good Book. The Claretians are at the forefront of producing the Bible in China. Claretian Father Alberto Rossa has led the charge in this vast country, where he believes his missionary work is put to good use. “We have so many spiritual resources in the West, and so little in China. It is time to share, and China is waiting,” he says. Father Rossa is the creator of the Christian Community Bible, a Catholic pastoral Bible the Claretians publish in numerous languages and countries.
An estimated 30 million Christians now worship in government-approved churches in China. Tens of millions more are said to pray in underground outlets. “I have been to mass in places like Guanchong, a city of eight million people. There were many people of all ages devotedly attending and participating in Mass,” says Father Rossa. “I feel a special connection with all of them.”
One employee of Amity, the printing company in Nanjing, has found her experience life-changing, “Before I came to work here, I had never heard of the Bible,” said Yi Shuhong, 40, a 20-year employee. “No one in my family believes in God. But they are not against me for converting.”