Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, celebrated a special Mass at San Fernando Cathedral March 24 in commemoration of César Chávez, a man that was moved by the circumstances to serve others by organizing them.
Speaking prior to the liturgy was Paul Chávez, César Chávez Foundation president and chairman. César Chávez began the foundation in the 1960s and it has grown and adapted into a successful group of social enterprises that support hundreds of thousands of Latinos and working families, inspiring and transforming communities from rural to urban areas throughout the Southwest and across generations.
Paul Chávez, one of eight children of César and Helen Chavéz, has spent his entire life with the farm worker movement. He was a personal assistant to his father, and later served with the United Farm Workers of America as a union organizer, contract negotiator, political director, lobbyist in Sacrament and Washington, D.C., and marketing director.
Members of the United Farm Workers of America had special seating for the Mass, and also brought forward the offertory gifts.
In his homily, Archbishop Gustavo said that many people do not expect to find salvation among migrant workers or to listen to their wisdom and insights. “To many people, agricultural fields are alien places. Migrants and immigrants are ‘other people,” the archbishop lamented. “But often we find great faith there among these sisters and brothers of ours, created in God’s image and likeness.”
The San Antonio prelate described César Chávez as having a deep faith, saying that he did not retreat from difficulties or obstacles, and was involved with the poorest of the poor migrant workers.
“Like Jesus, he preached the gospel of non-violence. He engaged in civic actions — boycotts and protest marches, actually processions filled with prayer and sacred song,” the Missionary of the Holy Spirit explained. “He fasted even though it weakened his health. He was a prophet, a model of the Christian life in the world, a very holy man.”
Archbishop Gustavo told the congregation that they can César Chávez by following his example, working tirelessly for social justice. “We can do it! God calls us to follow in Chávez’s footsteps! Our Lady of Guadalupe, help us to be people of authentic faith! Give us wisdom, courage, and strength to be missionary disciples!”
Photo by: Veronica Markland for Today’s Catholic Newspaper