Tuesday, February 28, 2017


In Erbil, Iraq now.  All of the persons on the move here are internal displaced persons, primarily Christians who have had to flee in face of ISIS assaults and their taking over large cities and towns, such as Mosul.  Erbil is about 225 miles north of Baghdad, and in the region controlled by the Kurds--called Kurdistan.

When ISIS started its aggressive assault in the northern part of Iraq, Christians began fleeing at once.  For a Christian to remain in their homes they would have to agree to pay a regular "fee" to remain, and would be subject to many harsh restrictions.  Almost all fled.

Some 13,000 families came to Erbil--a total of some 90,000 people.  They simply just showed up, and created an enormous humanitarian challenge.  This challenge was met at once by the Chaldean Archbishop of Erbil, Archbishop Bashar Warda--a dynamic man who quickly mobilized the Catholic community to help respond.  They at once opened camps and engaged the broader Catholic community to assist.  The response was overwhelming by the Church since the government was helpless to assume this burden of so many displaced persons.

Gradually the Archdiocese began finding permanent housing for these families, and today there are very few living in temporary quarters scattered all around Erbil.  It was surely one of the most amazing responses by the Church to such a challenge.

The Archdiocese opened 14 schools for the children, and 8,000 children are in those schools.

The view here is that ISIS will be defeated as an organized military fighting group, but that their ideology will continue to spread all around the world.  That is the greater threat by far.  The political problems in Iraq are huge, and the Iranian influence is very problematic.  The strong influence of the USA us needed to change dramatically the political deadlock in Baghdad.

At every turn CRS has been present with staff and funding.  The Archbishop reached out to many groups for assistance, and one of the most generous was the Knights of Columbus from the United States.  They have given over $5 million so far.

Children in front of painting of the alphabet

We drove north from Erbil and stopped along the way to visit a CRS school which assists internally displaced people [IDP], almost all from Mosul where ISIS had created so much murder and plunder.

Several more photos from our visit to this school are shown below.  When asked what they want to be when they grow up, many students respond a teacher--because the most important people for them, the ones who have helped them the most, are teachers.  Most are young, energetic, and relate well to the children.

Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and I visit the various classrooms.  They are very curious about Americans, and they are most grateful to the Catholic Church, CRS, and Caritas Iraq for all of the assistance they have been receiving.

Monday, February 27, 2017


Today we are in Jordan which is a small country wedged between Israel, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.  Jordan has received many refugees over the years, especially the Palestinians from 1948 when the state of Israel was created and the Palestinians had no place to go.

Jordan has been so welcoming of refugees and migrants, and takes positive steps to assist them while they are here.

Caritas Jordan and CRS are the key providers of so many services to these displaced peoples.

We began the day with a visit to Naour where we celebrated Mass with Iraqi refugees from Mosul and the Nineveh Plains.  Iraqi refugees do not have the freedoms that refugees from Syria have.  Especially difficult:  Iraqis are not able to get work permits.

On the grounds of the Church is the Our Lady of Peace Livelihood Center--an innovative approach to help these Iraqis obtain dignity, self-worth, and the ability to earn a living.  People, especially men with a family, cannot just sit around all day.  They need to work and to contribute to their families and the community.  The joy and feeling of being needed shines in their faces.  They truly enjoy "going to work"!

At this Center men recycle wooden pallets, the large circular wheels used to roll wire, and other items.  Various furniture items emerge and they sell them to the people of Amman.  Some examples:

Creating a table from an oak tree rooto

Also, the women use olive oil produced on their farm at the Church to make and sell a high quality soap--with many different scents.

Women making and selling olive oil soap 

Other women are involved with sewing--creating women's handbags and a variety of products that can be used in the home.

Handbags made by the refugees

Still others are becoming expert at making mosaics.  Jordan is famous for its mosaics over the centuries, and many ancient mosaics still exist.  They make many custom mosaics on special order for many people in and around Amman.

Large mosaic being made

Some of the men are working on a very large mosaic, and they estimate it will take over three months to finish it.  It will then be cut into sections and shipped to its final location.  They will re-assemble it and it will be a magnificent and large mosaic.

All of these jobs teach the refugees skills which they can eventually use as future occupations when they are able to return to their land of Iraq or wherever they eventually settle.

We then journeyed to Mount Nebo where Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land, but not to lead his people into it.  The Book of Deuteronomy:  "Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo....and the Lord showed him all the land.....The Lord then said to him, "...I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over."  So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said, and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth Peor...." [Dt 34:1-7]

An ancient mosaic uncovered
Church of Mt. Nebo Restored

Children with their artwork

We then drove back to Amman and visited one of the Caritas Jordan's education centers where Syrian and Iraqi refugee children are educated.  Special emphasis is given to assist them deal with the horrific traumas they have witnessed and experienced in their countries as they fled the violence and persecution.  Often, the children are encouraged to draw pictures about their hopes and dreams, as well as their fears.  This opens up the opportunity to begin to talk about what they have been through and bring closure to some parts of it.  A long process, indeed.

Eager to learn in their new land
Incredible joy in spite of all they endured

[For more information on the wonderful work of CRS, visit:   www.crs.org ]


Today was our final day in Beirut, and it was a privilege to celebrate the English Mass in the Church at the University of St. Joseph.  This historic university goes back many years, and has emerged as one of the leading universities in all of Lebanon.

The large Church was filled with mostly Filipino migrants, men and women who work on contract for employers in the greater Beirut area.  Most are involved in domestic work.  The positive thing is that these migrants are free to come to Church on Sunday, and free to gather with other Filipinos.  There is a great spirit of unity and fellowship among all of them.

Sunday Mass in the Church
The photo shows Archbishop Silvano Tomasi and I celebrating the Sunday Mass.  There was enthusiastic singing by all, and a great spirit of joy.

Since the Filipinos are such fine Catholics, their faith gathers them and renews the bonds among them.

A great joy to be with them!

After Mass, we greeted everyone.  And as always happens with Filipinos, many cell phones and cameras emerged to take photos!

Hospitality is so important for Filipino peoples around the world, and they are anxious to greet priests everywhere.  And, of course, many photos!

Afterward we joined them for a delightful Filipino food lunch, including all of the Filipino favorites.  It reminded me so much of Los Angeles being with them--so warm, friendly, kind and hospitable.

We then proceeded to the Beirut Airport to fly to Amman, Jordan, for the second phase of our journey.

[For more information on the wonderful work of CRS, visit:   www.crs.org ]

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Today our focus was on a huge problem around the world:  human trafficking.  Refugees are people who are fleeing wars, violence, oppression, hunger, and persecution.  The Middle East is filled with these people.

But there is another large group of people on the move and in dire conditions:  the victims of human trafficking.  Although this problem exists world-wide, we are experiencing it here in Lebanon.  The victims are people who have been brought to a country based on the promise of getting a job and living in service to others.  In most cases, these are young women hired to serve as domestic help for a family.

Technically, they have been employed under the protection of certain laws and regulations:  safe travel to the country where the work is located, a just monthly salary, room and board, clothing,
and other necessities.

But in practice, too many of these domestic help are taken advantage of, physically and even sexually abused, and kept as virtual captives in the homes where they work.  Often the employer takes their passport and other papers which might assist the person to leave.

Many receive far less than promised, and in general, their salary is based totally on how white their skins is.  We met women from Ethiopia who are dark, and they were given $150 per month; others from the Philippines who are lighter, might get $400.  The sole criteria:  how light their skin.

Many of these women flee from abusive homes and find themselves on the streets--alone and helpless.  The Lebanese government operates a Retention Center for such migrants, to which they are sent until their case can be sorted out and until they can arrange to go home.

One big catch:  the government provides very little money for the operation of the Retention Center. Instead, Caritas of Lebanon has stepped in and provides virtually everything for these people:  clothing, bedding, medical care, legal advocates, social workers, even basic food.  Caritas is the heart and soul of the Church's presence for these migrants caught up in the evil of human trafficking.

There are no photos of these migrants since the government allows no photos in the Retention Center.

We next visited a Safe House, also operated by Caritas Lebanon, which is located on the top floor of a building owned by the Church.  Here, exploited and abused women are free to come and to find a welcoming place.  Even though many are referred to the Safe House by the government, the location of the House is kept secret.

We were privileged to meet a large number of women desperate to escape the misery, lies, and manipulation which they experienced.

A group of women gathered for Mass with us.

The women sometimes give birth while at the House, and the baby is welcomed and cared for.  Counseling services are a high priority since the women have been traumatized by so much exploitation and disrespect.  They are truly fragile.

We then traveled to Oak Shelter, a third center which accepts women who have been heavily abused by their husbands in every possible manner.  Many have small children with them.  They have fled situations in which their lives were at danger, and were desperate to escape the trauma.

Psychological work with these victims is a high priority.  Since many of these women are migrants and not refugees, the range of other services available to them is limited.

Complicating their situations is that separation and divorce are handled by Religious Courts, usually following Sharia law, not civil laws.  Their choices are greatly limited by those Courts.

Once again, the presence and services of CRS and Caritas Lebanon are the only such services for women caught up in this manner of abuse.

[For more information on the wonderful work of CRS, visit:   www.crs.org ]

Friday, February 24, 2017


Our first day in Lebanon took us to the Beqaa Valley in northern Lebanon where our Catholic Relief Service [CRS] guides, Davide Bernocchi and Sean Kenney,  Brought us to witness some of the activities of CRS and Caritas Lebanon to assist refugees who have fled the endless conflicts in Syria and have cross over the mountains into Lebanon.

This young man sang an Arabic song.
Children in classrooms are classic.
Journeying with me is Archbishop Silvano Tomasi who is a special Secretary in the new Dicastery for  Promoting Integral Human Development.

After school snack time!
First stop:  a unique school operated by the Good Shepherd Sisters.  The Sisters have a small school in which they take Syrian refugee children and help them with a variety of services, including hygiene practises, basic education, and various programs to assist them with their precarious living situation.  Some photos of these children are shown here:
Children love to have their pictures taken!

Childish antics are universal!

Our next stop was to visit a nearby camp where many refugee families have lived for some four years, ever since the armed conflict in Syrian began.  The people live in small tent-like structures, many family members per tent. Most long to return to their homes in Syria when the terrible war in Syria ends.  We met refugees from Aleppo, Homs, and other cities and towns spread across the country.

CRS and Caritas Lebanon offer many services to assist the families and children.  Sadly, families from rural Syria do not value education since their lives are centered on farming and each family member is needed to help with all the farm jobs.
Syrian Refugee family

Some photos from this camp:

Children enjoying play time

Isaac, age 21, opens a store in the camp demonstrating again human ingenuity!

Continue to pray for all refugees and people forced from their homes by war, conflict, hunger, and persecution.  Only Jesus, the Prince of Peace, can bring an end to so much displacement and suffering.

[For more information on the work of CRS, visit:  www.crs.org ]

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

POPE FRANCIS: The Protection of Migrants Is A Moral Duty

Pope Francis Addresses Refugees & Migrants

Tuesday, February 21, 2017  Vatican City

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

I extend to you my cordial greeting, with deep appreciation for your invaluable work. I thank Archbishop Tomasi for his kind words, as well as Doctor Pöttering for his address. I am also grateful for the three testimonies which reflect in a tangible way the theme of this Forum: “Integration and Development: From Reaction to Action”. In effect, it is not possible to view the present challenges of contemporary migratory movement and of the promotion of peace, without including the twofold term “development and integration”: for this very reason I wanted to establish the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, with a Section concerned exclusively for migrants, refugees and the victims of human trafficking.

Migration, in its various forms, is not a new phenomenon in humanity’s history. It has left its mark on every age, encouraging encounter between peoples and the birth of new civilizations. In its essence, to migrate is the expression of that inherent desire for the happiness proper to every human being, a happiness that is to be sought and pursued. For us Christians, all human life is an itinerant journey towards our heavenly homeland.

The beginning of this third millennium is very much characterized by migratory movement which, in terms of origin, transit and destination, involves nearly every part of the world. Unfortunately, in the majority of cases this movement is forced, caused by conflict, natural disasters, persecution, climate change, violence, extreme poverty and inhumane living conditions: “The sheer number of people migrating from one continent to another, or shifting places within their own countries and geographical areas, is striking. Contemporary movements of migration represent the largest movement of individuals, if not of peoples, in history” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).

Before this complex panorama, I feel the need to express particular concern for the forced nature of many contemporary migratory movements, which increases the challenges presented to the political community, to civil society and to the Church, and which amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response to these challenges.

Our shared response may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.

To welcome. “Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will” (Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 12 January 2015). Faced with this kind of rejection, rooted ultimately in self-centredness and amplified by populist rhetoric, what is needed is a change of attitude, to overcome indifference and to counter fears with a generous approach of welcoming those who knock at our doors. For those who flee conflicts and terrible persecutions, often trapped within the grip of criminal organizations who have no scruples, we need to open accessible and secure humanitarian channels. A responsible and dignified welcome of our brothers and sisters begins by offering them decent and appropriate shelter. The enormous gathering together of persons seeking asylum and of refugees has not produced positive results. Instead these gatherings have created new situations of vulnerability and hardship. More widespread programs of welcome, already initiated in different places, seem to favour a personal encounter and allow for greater quality of service and increased guarantees of success.

To protect. My predecessor, Pope Benedict, highlighted the fact that the migratory experience often makes people more vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and violence (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 18 October 2005). We are speaking about millions of migrant workers, male and female – and among these particularly men and women in irregular situations – of those exiled and seeking asylum, and of those who are victims of trafficking. Defending their inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedoms and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted. Protecting these brothers and sisters is a moral imperative which translates into adopting juridical instruments, both international and national, that must be clear and relevant; implementing just and far reaching political choices; prioritizing constructive processes, which perhaps are slower, over immediate results of consensus; implementing timely and humane programs in the fight against “the trafficking of human flesh” which profits off others’ misfortune; coordinating the efforts of all actors, among which, you may be assured will always be the Church.

To promote. Protecting is not enough. What is required is the promotion of an integral human development of migrants, exiles and refugees. This “takes place by attending to the inestimable goods of justice, peace, and the care of creation” (Apostolic Letter Humanam Progressionem, 17 August 2016). Development, according to the social doctrine of the Church (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 373-374), is an undeniable right of every human being. As such, it must be guaranteed by ensuring the necessary conditions for its exercise, both in the individual and social context, providing fair access to fundamental goods for all people and offering the possibility of choice and growth. Also here a coordinated effort is needed, one which envisages all the parties involved: from the political community to civil society, from international organizations to religious institutions. The human promotion of migrants and their families begins with their communities of origin. That is where such promotion should be guaranteed, joined to the right of being able to emigrate, as well as the right to not be constrained to emigrate (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 12 October 2012), namely the right to find in one’s own homeland the conditions necessary for living a dignified life. To this end, efforts must be encouraged that lead to the implementation of programs of international cooperation, free from partisan interests, and programs of transnational development which involve migrants as active protagonists.

To integrate. Integration, which is neither assimilation nor incorporation, is a two-way process, rooted essentially in the joint recognition of the other’s cultural richness: it is not the superimposing of one culture over another, nor mutual isolation, with the insidious and dangerous risk of creating ghettos. Concerning those who arrive and who are duty bound not to close themselves off from the culture and traditions of the receiving country, respecting above all its laws, the family dimension of the process of integration must not be overlooked: for this reason I feel the need to reiterate the necessity, often presented by the Magisterium (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 15 August 1986), of policies directed at favouring and benefiting the reunion of families. 

With regard to indigenous populations, they must be supported, by helping them to be sufficiently aware of and open to processes of integration which, though not always simple and immediate, are always essential and, for the future, indispensable. This requires specific programs, which foster significant encounters with others. Furthermore, for the Christian community, the peaceful integration of persons of various cultures is, in some way, a reflection of its catholicity, since unity, which does not nullify ethnic and cultural diversity, constitutes a part of the life of the Church, who in the Spirit of Pentecost is open to all and desires to embrace all (cf. John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 5 August 1987).

I believe that conjugating these four verbs, in the first person singular and in the first person plural, is today a responsibility, a duty we have towards our brothers and sisters who, for various reasons, have been forced to leave their homeland: a duty of justice, of civility and of solidarity.
First of all, a duty of justice. We can no longer sustain unacceptable economic inequality, which prevents us from applying the principle of the universal destination of the earth’s goods. We are all called to undertake processes of apportionment which are respectful, responsible and inspired by the precepts of distributive justice. “We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 8 December 2013, 9). 

One group of individuals cannot control half of the world’s resources. We cannot allow for persons and entire peoples to have a right only to gather the remaining crumbs. Nor can we be indifferent or think ourselves dispensed from the moral imperatives which flow from a joint responsibility to care for the planet, a shared responsibility often stressed by the political international community, as also by the Magisterium (cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 9; 163; 189, 406). This joint responsibility must be interpreted in accord with the principle of subsidiarity, “which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power” (Laudato Si’, 196). Ensuring justice means also reconciling history with our present globalized situation, without perpetuating mind-sets which exploit people and places, a consequence of the most cynical use of the market in order to increase the well being of the few. As Pope Benedict affirmed, the process of decolonization was delayed “both because of new forms of colonialism and continued dependence on old and new foreign powers, and because of grave irresponsibility within the very countries that have achieved independence” (Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 33). For all this there must be redress.

Second, there is a duty of civility. Our commitment to migrants, exiles and refugees is an application of those principles and values of welcome and fraternity that constitute a common patrimony of humanity and wisdom which we draw from. Such principles and values have been historically codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in numerous conventions and international agreements. “Every migrant is a human person who, as such, possesses fundamental, inalienable rights that must be respected by everyone and in every circumstance” (ibid., 62). Today more than ever, it is necessary to affirm the centrality of the human person, without allowing immediate and ancillary circumstances, or even the necessary fulfillment of bureaucratic and administrative requirements, to obscure this essential dignity. As Saint John Paul II stated, an “irregular legal status cannot allow the migrant to lose his dignity, since he is endowed with inalienable rights, which can neither be violated nor ignored” (John Paul II, Message for World Migration Day, 25 July 1995, 2). 

From the duty of civility is also regained the value of fraternity, which is founded on the innate relational constitution of the human person: “A lively awareness of our relatedness helps us to look upon and to treat each person as a true sister or brother; without fraternity it is impossible to build a just society and a solid and lasting peace” (Message for the World Day of Peace, 8 December 2013, 1). Fraternity is the most civil way of relating with the reality of another person, which does not threaten us, but engages, reaffirms and enriches our individual identity (cf. Benedict XVI, Address to Participants in an Interacademic Conference on “The Changing Identity of the Individual”, 28 January 2008).

Finally, there is a duty of solidarity. In the face of tragedies which take the lives of so many migrants and refugees – conflicts, persecutions, forms of abuse, violence, death – expressions of empathy and compassion cannot help but spontaneously well-up. “Where is your brother” (Gen 4:9): this question which God asks of man since his origins, involves us, especially today with regard to our brothers and sisters who are migrating: “This is not a question directed to others; it is a question directed to me, to you, to each of us” (Homily at the "Arena" Sports Camp, Salina Quarter, Lampedusa, 8 July 2013). Solidarity is born precisely from the capacity to understand the needs of our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and to take responsibility for these needs. Upon this, in short, is based the sacred value of hospitality, present in religious traditions. 

For us Christians, hospitality offered to the weary traveller is offered to Jesus Christ himself, through the newcomer: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35). The duty of solidarity is to counter the throwaway culture and give greater attention to those who are weakest, poorest and most vulnerable. Thus “a change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 5 August 2013).

As I conclude these reflections, allow me to draw attention again to a particularly vulnerable group of migrants, exiles and refugees whom we are called to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate. I am speaking of the children and young people who are forced to live far from their homeland and who are separated from their loved ones. I dedicated my most recent Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees to them, highlighting how “we need to work towards protection, integration and long-term solutions” (Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, 8 September 2016).

I trust that these two days will bear an abundant fruit of good works. I assure you of my prayers; and, please, do not forget to pray for me. Thank you.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vatica

Sunday, February 19, 2017


On February 21 and 22, I will be attending an International Forum on the plight of the world's refugees in Rome--sponsored by the Church and bringing together many persons and organizations helping the vast refugee populations of the world.

Then on February 23, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, Kevin Appleby and I will fly to Lebanon to begin a four-country tour to be with various refugee groups.  Almost all of these refugees have had to flee terror, wars, persecution, lack of food and medical care, and general hopelessness.  Our mission is to bring that sense of "closeness" of Pope Francis to them, and to extend reasons for hope.  We will also be encouraging the caregivers taking care of refugees in so many places.

From Lebanon, we will fly to Jordan to visit refugee centers there, then on to Erbil in northern Iraq, and conclude in Greece where so many refugees are stranded.

Please continue to pray for all refugees and peoples on the move across the world, and to support the tremendous work of Catholic Relief Services [CRS] in so many countries around the world.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Without immigrants, those with legal status and those without, the State of California would shut down.

Recently I was driving through the lush San Joaquin Valley of central California listening to a local talk radio station which was berating immigrants, regurgitating the ill-informed rhetoric that has become so popular in the recent election campaigns. As I passed endless miles of dormant orchards and vineyards, open fields awaiting Spring planting, my eye caught sight of a group of men pruning peach trees.

I found an exit from the highway and doubled back to get a closer look. These young peach trees were just beginning to sprout pink and red buds, so the men were working quickly to complete the entire orchard.

Their pruning these trees is not a simple task. It requires both science and art, and next season's peach harvest depends on these farm workers having a special eye to prune the right branch. I was fascinated to watch once again these professionals at work. One worker explained that this coming season's peaches will form on the new small branches from last year. Pruning the wrong ones means no peaches.

These are immigrants--some may or may not have legal status.

While these farm workers were busy at this orchard, thousands more were spread across this fertile Valley pruning grape vines and many other fruit trees so that you and I can enjoy fresh fruit, table grapes, and fine wines in the coming months.

I asked these workers if non-Hispanics ever work along side them, and they looked at me amazed. They said that even in the midst of the Great Recession they never saw anyone approach the farmers looking for work doing these difficult tasks.

These immigrants are essential to California's agricultural business, one of the prominent elements of the state's economy. California leads the nation in the production of fruits, vegetables, wines and nuts. The state's most valuable crops are nuts, grapes, cotton, flowers, and oranges. California produces the major share of U.S. domestic wine. Dairy products contribute the single largest share of farm income.

Without our immigrant brothers and sisters, agricultural would quickly vanish as the great economic engine it is.

In California immigrants are the employee engine not only of agriculture, but also of tourism, hotel and motel employees, restaurant chefs and staff, clothing manufacturing, landscape installation and maintenance, all phases of construction work, car washing and detailing, and countless other segments of production and service.

Of this group of farm workers I met one who had just finished high school. He was helping his father prune trees because they must be pruned before the buds emerged. There was a rhythmical urgency to their work, and he told me they had hundreds more acres to prune. He said that soon he was going to go to Fresno State University and major in agriculture so that he could be part of the management and science side of farming.

This brief stop on the way home was a vivid reminder to me of the essential value of our immigrant brothers and sisters to all of us across the country.

As I continued my journey south, I prayed a special Rosary for these farm workers and their families--invoking the assistance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Juan Diego, and St. Joseph the Worker.

The next time I enjoy a peach, I'll wonder which tree it came from.