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25 January 2017

Sister Karina Torres, CMT, seasonal worker missionary

I was the stranger, and they welcomed me

Matthew 25:35

Since I arrived in Canada three years ago, this Gospel line has gained a special meaning for me. I am a Mexican Sister and a member of the Teresian Carmelite Missionaries Congregation. I have been appointed to work with Seasonal Farm Workers from Guatemala and Mexico in the Lower Mainland. (Last year in BC more than 5,000 workers were hired). They face vulnerable situations such as a different language, a new culture, and both working and poor housing conditions, among others. Most of them left wives and children for a period that varies from 6 months to two years. It is a hard decision to take, but they accept it because of poverty, lack of employment and low salaries, which makes it harder to raise a family.

Seasonal Farm Workers’ Ministry in the Archdiocese of Vancouver involves six parishes and is coordinated by Fr. Richard Zanotti CS. This team is also composed by other Scalabrinian Priests, myself and the tireless work of lay people who generously support our ministry.

My pastoral job includes offering spiritual support, formation, guidance, and accompaniment to our migrant brothers. It is our main pastoral focus.

We celebrate Spanish Masses and Confessions in six different parishes, followed by a dinner and sharing. In February 2017 another parish is going to take on this ministry. However other activities are involved, for example, medical appointments, visits to the hospital, shoulders to lean on… —they want to be listened to about their families, problems and dreams.

We also visit farms and provide a faith program called Discovery. Our main goal is to offer a warm setting for faith sharing experiences. We want our Church to be a hospitable community for newcomers and a real reflection of God’s concern toward the marginalized, where they indeed feel at home surrounded by family members. Our sincere and profound intentions is to always live Jesus’ commandment of compassion, service and tolerance.

I recently received a call from a worker, telling me he is working on his personal conversion. “I want to be a better person, husband and father. I want to live closer to Jesus”. This testimony really touched and motivated me to keep on being Jesus’ presence in their daily lives.

Archdiocese of Vancouver: www.rcav.org

Teresian Carmelite Missionaries: www.cmtroma.org