Several members of the young-adult ministry at Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish have been working hard this Lenten season to make sure that migrant farm workers will have a safe place to stay. In February, the ministry adopted two rooms at La Casa in Sodus as a Lenten service project.
La Casa is the official name of a new diocesan migrant center. The center will provide transitional housing for farm workers who need a temporary place to stay. This could include workers who become ill or have an accident and need a safe place to recuperate, as well as individual workers or families who arrive in the area expecting to find work but aren’t immediately successful, according to Sister of Mercy Janet Korn, social-justice awareness coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities.
“Many times they might have to spend days in a car when they’re awaiting work, with no bathroom or kitchen,” Sister Korn said.
La Casa will also provide a space where farm workers and Anglos can meet with one another, Sister Korn added. The life of a migrant farm worker can be pretty isolated, and La Casa will provide a place for social activity and bridge-building between the migrant and Anglo communities, she said. The center will also have a paid staff member, who will be able to refer farm workers to local social-service agencies.
La Casa includes a three-bedroom apartment, a studio apartment and a pair of two-bedroom apartments. These apartments can hopefully be used to accommodate different combinations of farm workers, including families and groups of single men and women, Sister Korn said.
Parishes and groups throughout the diocese will be instrumental in La Casa’s transformation from a vacant building into the envisioned center of hope and opportunity, she added. Teens attending the annual Diocesan Youth Convention in August raised $1,600 to help pay for the purchase of the building, and parish groups from all corners of the diocese have volunteered to travel to Sodus and help make La Casa habitable. Some groups have even adopted rooms, pledging to raise money for these rooms and working to complete and furnish them.
“So far anything that we’ve done is really due to the generosity of the people and the parishes by their financial help or their manual labor. We’re very grateful,” Sister Korn said.
Jamie Fazio, pastoral associate at Blessed Sacrament, and Jenn Owens, coordinator of the young-adult ministry’s La Casa Lenten service project, visited the house before Lent began and chose two rooms to adopt.
“We are responsible for painting, decorating and furnishing a bedroom and a living room, which are our two adopted rooms. We hope that we can make the rooms feel like home to the migrant workers who will get to stay there,” Owens said. “We are in charge of raising money for the cost of the windows, and we do all of the minor repairs. We paint the room and we clean it.”
Members of the young-adult ministry also plan to solicit donations of used furniture from parishioners to help furnish their adopted rooms, Owens said.
Owens and Fazio decided to get the young-adult ministry involved with La Casa because of the strong social-justice and service elements involved.
“There are four aspects of young-adult ministry that we try to develop. Those are the spiritual, the social, the service and the educational needs. The La Casa Lenten service project addresses the service component of the four aspects of young-adult ministry,” Owens said.
The other three aspects are currently being addressed through some of the ministry’s other programs, including a weekly Christian-music night, a Lenten book club and several young-adult retreats.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Individuals, parishes or groups interested in adopting one of La Casa’s rooms, volunteering or donating money or supplies to the project should contact Sister Korn at 585/328-3228, ext. 1287, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.