1st May – Feast of St. Joseph the Worker
To-day we reflect upon the dignity of human labour. In our multi-cultural, multi-racial society such a reflection will include a consideration and a focus on those many people, work in our midst, who are from abroad. They enrich our communities and our Church by their presence. On this day, therefore, let us fully embrace the international dimension of work.
However, our thoughts must recall the tragic difficulties of the past year, to name but three:
the extended separation of so many migrant workers from the families because COVID has prevented them from returning home;
the ever increasing number of trafficked workers and those caught up in modern slavery, and whose dignity is not respected;
and the crops and food that have gone to waste with a resulting detrimental effect on farmers because they could not get migrant workers to pick their produce.
At the same time we remember with gratitude all of those workers who throughout the coronavirus crisis have continually served the greater community and society and at significant personal risk, sacrifice and cost. Especially, we think of those working in health, social care and essential services and who have truly gone the extra mile working for our survival and benefit.
One of the things of which I am conscious is that so many of those who have come to work in this country are Catholics and so each time there is a migration of individuals of groups of people the Church here is strengthened and becomes more diverse and richer for the new life it is given.
This year we shall remember the Filipino community in a special way, because just last month they celebrated the first Baptism in their country 500 years ago. The place of Christianity in the Philippines has been formative to the country, but the colonisation and abuses which came with it cannot be ignored or forgotten.
Franz Jan Santos of Manila University has said that this year of quincentennial celebration is ‘an affirmation of how Christianity has transcended its colonial roots, and has been integrated in the culture and identity of Filipino Christians who have repeatedly chosen the faith despite multiple opportunities to abandon it. It is a testament not just to the relevance of the religion, but to the agency of Filipinos in charting their own destiny’.
I am most grateful to have Filipino communities in the Diocese both for the work they do and for the contribution they make to the life of the Church here. We ask God’s blessing upon them especially, but also upon all of the international workers in our country who enrich our lives and our faith.
May we uphold the dignity of their lives and their labour.