September 23, 2022

Priest: workers can look to saints, holy men and holy women for inspiration

By Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Workers today can look to the holy men and women of the past for comfort knowing that someone in heaven knows what they are going through in their jobs, the spiritual moderator said. of the Catholic Labor Network in an online Labor Day. Mass on September 5.

“There are many servants of God, venerable, blessed and saints who know your work, they know your struggle, they know your pain, and they also know your craft and, through your work, know your cooperation in the God’s ongoing creation,” said Father Sinclair Oubre, a priest from the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, and a member of the Seamen’s Union.

“If you are a servant in a home or a housekeeper in a hotel or hospital, call on the Servant of God Julia Greley, who was born into slavery in Hannibal, Missouri, and worked as a servant in Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico. She knew well the difficulty of the work, but also the reward of helping the families she loved,” Father Oubre said in his homily.

“If you are a beautician or a hairdresser, call on the Venerable Pierre Toussaint. A Haitian-American and former slave, who became known in New York for his skills and for his great philanthropic generosity,” he added. “He knew well the despair and pain that his clients carried in their hearts, but also how to bring out the hidden beauty in each person.”

He continues: “If you are a merchant sailor, call on the Captain Servant of God Leonard LaRue, who rescued 14,000 North Korean refugees in 1950 and spent the next 48 years as a Benedictine monk and moved to Paterson, New Jersey. He knew well the power and terror of the sea, but also how God carries sailors and their ships in the palm of his hand.

Father Oubre had a host of other suggestions: St. Isidore for the agricultural workers, blessed Franz Jägerstatter for farmers, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for teachers, Blessed Julia Bélanger for music teachers, St. Clement Marie Hofbauer for bakers, Venerable Matt Talbot for construction workers and Blessed Nikolaus Gross for miners.

For Father Oubre, nearly 30 years ago, however, there was no patron saint for worker priests. In the spring of 1995, a labor delegation from Illinois came to Port Arthur, Texas and showed video of a sit-in protest outside a Staley cornstarch and soybean processing plant in Decatur, Illinois. . In the video, police pepper spray a priest sitting with the workers at the factory gates, Father Martin Mangan.

That summer, after completing some work on his canon law degree at the Catholic University of America in Washington, Father Oubre asked Father Mangan if he could drive to Decatur as he was traveling from DC to Texas. Father Oubre said his goal was to ask Father Mangan, “How do you ‘work priest’?

But at dinner that night, “before I had the question out of my mouth, Father Martin looked me in the eye and asked, ‘How do you do the “priest of work? » »

“It was immediately apparent that he was making it up on the fly, just like I was in southeast Texas,” Father Oubre said.

In recent years, the Catholic Labor Network has run programs for clergy on how to fulfill the role of labor priest.

Father Oubre celebrated Mass from the Port Arthur International Sailors Chapel in Port Arthur. He noted that Deacon Ivan Watson, who assisted him during Mass, was locked out for 10 months in 2021 and this year by ExxonMobil in a contract dispute with the United Steelworkers of America at the giant’s refinery. energy in Beaumont.

One of the general intercessions at the Mass, which used the Roman Missal Mass for the sanctification of human labor, was that union leaders, both nationally and locally, be “guided by the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit , who they can be servant leaders.

Another intercession was for the US Senate cafeteria workers “as they seek fair wages”. In the cross-party dispute, restaurant workers are represented by UNITE HERE and won an initial contract with Restaurant Associates, which won the Capitol Architect’s cafeteria contract.

But the Senate has already had to inject cash to cover its costs, as cafeteria operations are well behind pre-pandemic levels. Seventeen workers and a House member were arrested during a July protest outside the Capitol, Restaurant Associates sent at least two layoff notices to cafeteria workers just to walk them out, and its management contract ended. ends in December.