The church is uniquely positioned to engage isolated seasonal workers in ministry. Photo: Richard Thornton
A few years ago, the Rev. Ted McCollum started noticing a lot of seasonal agricultural workers in his hometown of Beaverton, Ont. “We asked them what they would like to have,” says McCollum, rector of St. Paul’s Anglican Church.
In August 2009, McCollum and his parishioners arranged to show movies and soccer games in the parish hall. Then the visitors, who hailed from Mexico, told them they really wanted to celebrate mass in Spanish, which they had not done since coming to Canada. Most arrived in May and stayed until November.
McCollum arranged to have Fr. Hernan Astudillo come from San Lorenzo Anglican Church in Toronto to preside over a Spanish mass for the workers every Wednesday evening. St. Paul’s parishioners organized car pools, driving out to the farms and bringing the men into town for the service. “At a regular mass, 40 to 50 men will attend, and on special occasions, 70 to 80 will come,” says McCollum.
St. Paul’s also hosts a special service and dinner every year in honour of Mexican Independence Day. McCollum’s wife, Kimberley Reid, who is fluent in Spanish, prepares Mexican food for the celebration. In a win-win move, the parish also hired a language teacher from Mexico in 2011 to teach English to the workers and Spanish to parishioners.
In addition, the parish celebrates birthdays and offers the workers help with taxes, government claims and shopping. It also provides free phones and Internet. Separated from their loved ones for long periods, the workers can now contact them via Facebook or Skype. One worker had not seen his newborn daughter for several months. “When he saw his family on Skype, he was just over the moon,” says McCollum.
This ministry has given the men a real sense of belonging.