By Sister Anne Irose, ASC
During Christmas of 2009, Sisters Pat Schlarman and I began visiting the Latino workers of the Henry Dairy Farm in southern Illinois.
Pat, who had recently moved to the Ruma Center, was eager to continue her fruitful ministry with Latino families in southern Illinois. I was still homesick for Bolivia and more than happy to jump into this ministry.
The dairy farm had hired Latino workers to work the milking machines for 800-plus cows. The work was strenuous, but the Latino men were happy to have a salaried job that enabled them to help their families back home. They were equally happy to see our smiling faces and taste the sweets we often brought them.
Pat and I, later joined by Sister Janet Marie Wilhelm, made sure that each worker was welcomed to our country and given thanks for the production of the milk we drink. We spoke to them in their native Spanish, a type of deep embrace with words.
Our friendships deepened and the workers shared their stories and needs with us. Those who came with families asked that their children receive the sacraments. So, we made preparations for baptism, Reconciliation, and Holy Communion. We got to know their home conditions when we shared the Good News with parents, baptism sponsors, and children. One worker was baptized in our chapel at the Ruma Center.
Christmas was always special. St. John the Baptist Parish in Red Bud, Illinois, provided gifts for the families’ young children. The Hispanic ministry of the Diocese of Belleville provided a monetary gift for each Latino worker.
We learned last month with sad hearts that the dairy farm was closing.
We hope that our love and appreciation of the Latino families will go with them where they are able to find a job and share their willingness to work.