Aug 152013

Migrant laborers pose with Father Joseph Sia and Carol Kaalberg, far left, after a Mass he celebrated at their compound in Conesville on Aug. 2.

About 50 migrant workers attended a Mass that Father Joseph Sia celebrated on Friday, Aug. 2, in the cafeteria of their compound in Conesville. Each summer, the men are recruited from Mexico and receive temporary work visas to do jobs such as harvesting and detasseling for Bell’s Melons.
Fr. Sia, administrator of parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, suspected many of the laborers were Catholic. But most of the workers have no transportation to a church, so he had long hoped to celebrate a liturgy for them in Conesville. With help from Carol Kaalberg, who knows Tom and Terri Bell, he finally received permission from the men’s employer to do so. Kaalberg is cluster coordinator for parishes in Hills, Lone Tree and Nichols.
The priest said the Mass was “a way of giving the men spiritual and emotional support, especially as they are far away from home, family and friends, and they work (on most days) under the sun doing manual labor.
“After Mass, a number of the men asked me if I would come back for confessions and another Mass, perhaps on a Sunday. I have already sent a letter of request to the owners,” he said last week.
“It was providential that we were granted permission to celebrate Mass on the first Friday of the month,” Fr. Sia added. “I am trying to promote the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who is celebrated on first Fridays.
“I would like to thank Mrs. Carol Kaalberg and the Bells for working to make this happen, and Mrs. Natalia Martinez and Mr. Valentin Ruiz, parishioners of St. Joseph, Columbus Junction, for reading the Mass readings and providing wonderful music.
“I hope that the Mass we celebrated gave the workers some opportunity to reflect on God’s presence in their lives, and will encourage them to grow in their faith when they go back to Mexico.”

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