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Campesino Outreach

St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish, Fresno, CA

Donation Goal: $3,000

 

 

 

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In the heart of California farm country, St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish is an oasis of community, ministry, and service. The majority of the United States’ agricultural production that comes from California is produced here in the San Joaquin Valley. People from all over the world—including Peru, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Southeast Asia, and other states in the U.S.—come to the valley to live and to find work in the grape and almond plantations.

The Claretian Missionaries began to minister at St. Anthony Mary Claret Church in suburban Fresno in 1951. As in so many Claretian parishes, the ability of Claretian priests and brothers to minister especially in Spanish speaking communities made their work in Fresno, a largely Hispanic community, a natural from the start. Saint Anthony Claret founded the Claretian Missionaries in Spain in the 1850s, so much of the congregation’s work throughout the U.S. has historically focused on Latinos.

The parish is part of the official Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno, with parish priests assigned and directed by the Claretian U.S.A.-Canada Province, based in Chicago.

“Although Fresno is a Hispanic community, there are many Hispanics who arrive here on their own and feel lonely, like outcasts in society,” says Claretian Fr. Alex Gatain, pastor of St. Anthony Mary Claret Parish. Fr. Alex says that many parishioners are alone and far from their families. Some struggle with alcoholism and isolation. “Our parish is a place where they find that sense of family and connection with the community.”

St. Anthony Mary Claret ministers to some 800 families—who primarily speak English, Spanish, or Hmong—from Fresno and the surrounding farming areas. Most parishioners are first-generation immigrants who have been here for decades, continually trying to establish themselves. The parish has more than 30 highly active ministries that include citizenship and English classes, addiction and parental counseling, clothing, and food for families and the homeless.

A vital outreach for the many migrants of the parish is the Campesino Ministry program, providing for the needs of migrant workers in eight migrant camps, all within 30 miles of the church. Because of the seasonal nature of farming, the migrant camps experience work stoppages between various crop seasons. During the stoppages, year-round camp residents are not always able to meet their basic needs, including food and warm clothes in the winter.

Volunteers from the parish visit the camps in teams; at any given time there are six teams working on the ministry. The teams visit each camp at least once a week for several hours of meaningful interaction and service. They distribute food and warm jackets to the migrant workers to ensure they can maintain a decent quality of life. They also purchase and distribute over-the-counter medications, while connecting migrant workers with medical clinics that can help them.

Some parishioners have been volunteering in the Campesino Ministry for the entirety of its 40 years of existence. “The volunteers are true missionaries in this church,” said Fr. Alex.

With the support of Campesino Outreach, migrant workers residing in these camps have access to supplies to meet their needs continually, even when between cycles of agricultural work. Your donation to the St. Jude League Community Development will help fund vital programs in our communities, like those at Campesino Outreach. Learn more about these issues faced by Migrants & Refugees and how the St. Jude League Community Development aids communities experiencing need on our Issues pages.

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