Health & Spirit

To see 'forgotten people' and stop injustice, Catholic leaders take Mass on the road

Carmen George, The Fresno Bee on

Published in Religious News

He says there's a "mean spirit alive and well" in society today and unless people speak about Gospel values, others will buy into the "whole enchilada" and not say anything about it.

Breaking down barriers

The doctrine of social justice continued during a mobile Mass at Fresno's Kearney Park on Sept. 19.

Dreiling started by talking about how Kearney once was considered "the most beautiful park west of the Mississippi River" – 200-plus acres owned by Martin Kearney, who helped establish the prosperous raisin industry in the central San Joaquin Valley. A large mansion in the park was meant to be housing for servants once Kearney's palace was completed, which never happened.

"But there's another side to this story," Dreiling continues, "that we cannot and must not shy away from or allow to stay hidden from our view. All this that we see around us -- the plants, the trees, this park, the 11-mile drive known as Kearney Boulevard, the historical mansion that I mentioned earlier, the land and all the economic development that has sustained us -- all this did not happen on its own. The vast majority of the efforts to make it happen was accomplished by the backbreaking work of laborers.

"Young and old, men, women and children, mostly immigrants from China and from Latin America. If you drove to the park down Kearney Boulevard, I hope you noticed all the palm trees and oleanders. These were not planted by machines. They were planted, one-by-one, by Chinese laborers. Called in those days 'coolies' who worked in the blazing heat of the summer to earn about 10 cents a day -- 10 cents a day. And when their work was done, without a thank you, they were deported back to China.

"And of course, we know the struggle of Latino farm workers, and their many times unappreciated contributions to the wealth and the progress of our Valley. We cannot and must not forget them or honor them, too."

Dreiling's homily is in line with direction from Pope Francis for the Catholic Church to "accompany" those who are suffering. Dreiling knows many of the Chinese laborers, Native Americans, and Japanese Americans that he talked about were not likely Catholic, but that doesn't matter.

What does matter, Dreiling says, is this: Breaking down "real or imagined barriers that enslave people again or hide them from view or shame them as worthless or having no dignity."

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