A warm welcome for those who work in the summer sun

Written by Peter G. Sánchez

During these summer days, under the sizzling sun or drenching downpours, the Haitian migrant farmworkers work in farm towns in blueberry fields, their sweat and hands keeping alive Hammonton’s title “Blueberry Capital of the World.”

Father Yvans Jazon, a spiritual leader in the Diocese of Camden’s Haitian-Catholic apostolate, acknowledged their contributions in the eighth annual welcome and reception for the farmworkers and their families, held June 22 at Columbia Fruit Farm, and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministries and Cultural Diversity.

During the welcome and reception for Haitian Farm Workers, migrants bring up the offertory gifts of fruits and blueberries, fresh-picked from the Hammonton farms, for the liturgy held on June 22 at Columbia Fruit Farms. Photos by Alan M. Dumoff

Speaking to the assembled during a Mass celebrated in their native Creole, under a makeshift setup among the fields and living quarters that included a steel roof, altar and benches, the priest affirmed their work, telling them that “You are not people who store things for yourselves, but you are those who share your life, and your love, with others.”

Reminding the migrants of who they ultimately serve, working from sunrise to sundown every day, Father Jazon said, “When we work for the Lord, we never tire.”

Bussed up to South Jersey from Florida, with their family members in tow, the migrant workers labor from June until the end of July in Hammonton’s farms. Every week, Father Jazon ministers to these individuals and their families, mostly non-Catholics and speaking only their native Creole.

Ilosieo “Zoom” Josue first moved to the United States from Haiti 35 years ago, spending the last 16 of them in Hammonton, leaving his wife and children in Florida. Speaking both his native Creole and English, he is nicknamed “Zoom” due to his efficiency in acting as a go-between for workers and farm owners. Remarking that he came to the United States, and Hammonton, for “something better,” he added that the festive and enthusiastic atmosphere of the evening, complete with a liturgy and meal familiar to the Haitian, and cool weather, added to “a joyful day.”

A celebration of welcome for Haitian Migrant workers.

James Andrews, diocesan Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministries and Cultural Diversity, said the evening had a strong impact on the migrant workers.

“They have long hot difficult days and giving them attention even for one evening makes them realize the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Camden actually cares about them,” he noted.

Andrews was also grateful for the generous donations of water and food to the migrants, by attending faithful from around the diocese, and for the youth who helped to serve meals to the hundreds in attendance.

“The donors truly understand Matthew 25:31-46,” he said, pointing out the Gospel passage with the words of Jesus that state “Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.”