Toward the Greater Good Sat, 22 Jul 2017 17:57:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Come, Holy Spirit! Sun, 24 May 2015 22:02:50 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Holy_Spirit_as_Dove_(detail)

Come, Holy Spirit!  Welcome, Pentacost.

Editor’s Note:  In celebration of today, our blogpost offers a guest reflection by Deacon Doug Cook.  Deacon Doug is Spiritual Director of Cursillo for the Diocese of Orange, California:

This weekend we celebrate Pentecost, the birthday of the Church.

Last weekend we commemorated the Ascension: Jesus returning to heaven “to prepare a place” for us. It is a message of hope that sometimes overshadows what Jesus tells the disciples right before being taken up: “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).  That commission is meant for us now as well as for the disciples.

Now that Jesus has ascended, we are his body upon earth.  It is not enough to believe in, love, and worship him privately.  We can almost hear him say, “That’s great that you love me.  Now go do something about it.”

What does it look like to live this commission?  It means a commitment to work for justice in our parish, local, national and global communities even when doing so forces us to face our prejudices.  It also means diverting hard-earned income away from our own enjoyment in order to support those who work directly with the destitute, the homeless, the sick, the imprisoned, and the refugee.

We are made in the image and likeness of God, who is love.  He showed the depth of his love by making a gift of his Son on the cross.  He has commissioned us to go and bear much fruit.

Remember your clausura; “Christ is Counting on You”!

De Colores, Deacon Doug
Spring 2015

(Note:  posted with permission from “Deacon’s Beacon,” Cursillo, Diocese of Orange)

Memorial Day: “Earn This” Mon, 26 May 2014 18:58:43 +0000 Continue reading ]]>


In honor of Memorial Day today–remembering all who have risked their lives for our freedoms.

In gratitude, and reflecting on what we can do with gratitude–here is a re-posting of favorite thoughts on this topic.

May everything we do, reflect purpose and gratitude. Enjoy!

After Good Friday…Comes Mercy Sat, 19 Apr 2014 06:16:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

A local gathering place draws families from several different cultures and ethnic backgrounds.  Overheard:

“Sandra”:  “Don’t you know why school will be closed today?  It’s Good Friday!”

“Rita”:  “Big Friday?”

“Sandra”:  “Nooo, Good Friday!”

“Rita”:  “Why isn’t it Great Friday?”

I’d have to agree with “Rita” on that one.  And actually, it is.  Reflecting on the solemnity of today and Jesus’ complete, assented sacrifice for us, it’s hard not to get stuck considering our sins that nailed Him to the cross.

This is where the hope of mercy comes in.  Actually, “Divine Mercy” and the joy of Jesus’ resurrection (which we celebrate days from now as Easter Sunday)–complete, unconditional love, and a limitless ocean of mercy available to us all.

Today I attended Stations of the Cross at Christ Cathedral, accompanied by friends of another Christian tradition. At their prayer service tonight, they will literally nail their sins to a cross–physical surrender and a way to etch action into memory.

Interested in hearing more about love and hope?  Check out these favorite offerings.

Happy Holy Week!




Happy Birthday Cesar Chavez! Mon, 31 Mar 2014 20:42:34 +0000 Continue reading ]]> CesarandJuan


In remembrance of today’s birthday of Cesar Chavez, a beloved champion for human rights, I’m re-posting a favorite reflection written by Fr. Juan Romero.


Fr. Romero himself is a passionate advocate for the rights of the poor and under-served.  What an honor to serve together with Cesar, and help move forward all he believed in.

May we each be inspired by causes that capture our hearts, and work to live out our passion toward good in the world!

(*photo courtesy of Victor Aleman)

“John Schools”: Addressing the ‘Demand’ Side of Sex Trafficking Fri, 05 Jul 2013 03:03:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Editor’s Note:

Today, July 4th, is Independence Day.  What perfect timing to share great news from one of my treasured colleagues in the human trafficking field! Kathi Hardy is the Founder/Executive Director of Freedom From Exploitation (FFE), a nonprofit organization based in San Diego, California.

Kathi has a strong record working with at-risk youth on the streets, those pulled from the streets, and/or placed in juvenile detention facilities.  Her efforts seek to assess their needs, prevent, and help heal, sexual exploitation they may have experienced in their young lives.  This includes CSEC (commercial sexual exploitation of children, or human trafficking of minors).

How can human trafficking exist without the demand for it? On the topic of sex trafficking, Kathi also seeks to address this. In collaboration with local law enforcement and supporting agencies, she has been an integral part of creating and implementing one of the California’s first “john schools.” Recently, CBS-TV8 ran coverage on this work.

With congratulations to Kathi, I’m re-printing her recent post below, along with the newslink.  May the world someday be truly free of addictions, temptations and decisions that create the demand to treat other human beings to be bought and sold. 

Kathi Hardy, Founder, Freedom From Exploitation:
“One of the projects I do in my spare time is participate in the Prostitution Impact Panel through the San Diego City Attorney’s office. This addresses the ‘Demand’ side of prostitution and human trafficking. We have been in existance since 2001 and have seen, at the last recidivism study – 808 men, with a 3.5% recidivism rate. That would be 27 out of 808 have re-offended and they were found to be pedofiles, rapists and violent sexual predators who are now incarcerated for their crimes. The other 781 got a clue and have not done this again, or have not been caught in our area since.
Thank you for allowing me to be of service to my community.” 

Please click the CBS-8 News Video Below:

John School Offers First-Time Offenders a Second Chance








(Part II): In Honor of Cesar Chavez: Mass Homily in Celebration of Cesar’s Life & Legacy Sat, 30 Mar 2013 05:11:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> cesar_chavez_story(2) University of San Diego – CESAR CHAVEZ MASS – Thursday, March 21, 2013

by Rev. Juan Romero*

I am grateful for your invitation through Professor Alberto Pulido of this University’s Department of Ethnic Studies to preside at this Mass today, and was privileged to anticipate and celebrate Cesar’s birthday and memorialize his death and legacy with you last evening.  It is a wonderful confluence, coincidence…no PROVIDENCE that on the 20th Anniversary of the death of Cesar Chavez, his birthday falls on Easter Sunday!    ¡Que viva Cesar Chavez!

In today’s Gospel for this weekday, Fifth Week of Lent, we heard Jesus say to the Jews: …“my Father…glorifies me…  I know him… and I keep his word…. before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area. (Jn 8: 51-51)

Since the beginning of Jesus’ public life, there had always been tensions with his enemies, the religious leaders of the people, most especially the Scribes and Pharisees who felt their authority threatened.  Those tensions explode with Jesus’ affirmation, “…before Abraham came to be, I AM.”  His enemies understood it well as a claim to divinity.  It was Yaweh’s self-identification to Moses at the burning bush when God first revealed himself to Moses whom God was choosing to lead His people out of slavery into freedom.  The journey was never easy, it dearly cost Moses and the people, but after forty years, they finally entered into the Promised Land.  However, even then their journey was not complete, and it continued to have its ups and downs.  Nevertheless, God was always with them, and never abandoned them during the great struggles—even unto and through the death and resurrection of Jesus that continues in His people.

Cesar knew how to fast and pray, and he did not just do this during Lent and Holy Week.  He embraced that discipline in his life as a way to cast out demons of injustice, and to witness the way of NON-VIOLENCE to his followers who were severely tempted to return violence for the violence heaped upon them.

To Live Faith, and Integrate Beliefs with Justice

He did not wear religious faith on his sleeve, but was not afraid to practice it publically.  He knew how to integrate his convictions and commitments for justice for farmworkers with his Catholic beliefs.  For him this was not a “show,” or a publicity stunt.   I first came into contact with Cesar as a young priest in 1966 when I was stationed at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Santa Barbara.  Attended by Franciscan priests and some others at Mission Santa Barbara, he was recuperating his strength after a prolonged fast of several days.  I visited him during two other of his protracted fasts.

Shortly after the first long fast, I met Cesar again at the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in his barrio Sal Si Puedes, in San José.  We were a group of about forty priests and a few others, and Cesar challenged us in his full vigor and with prophetic strength:  “Jewish rabbis and Protestant Ministers are in solidarity with our struggle to form a union for farmworkers, but WHERE ARE MY CATHOLIC PRIESTS?  Many of the growers are (Portuguese) Catholic, and most of the workers are too—Filipino and Mexicans!” It was an invitation and a challenge that I took to heart, a call to justice, a call to live in a particular way the covenant of the Lord.

Covenant, A Special Relationship

We are called to be children of the Covenant.  It is the special relationship that God has entered into with His people Israel, and with us the new Israel.  We are brought into that covenant through Baptism when we first passed over with Jesus from death to life.  The Covenant binds us to respond with love of God and neighbor to this God who has first loved us and sent us His Son that we might have life in abundance.

The scriptural response reminded us,  “The Lord remembers his covenant forever. (Ps. 105).  God indeed has done wondrous deeds to work out His plan to bring into unity and love with Himself and with one another us, the “…descendants of Abraham, his servants…his chosen ones!”

When Abram prostrated himself, God called him to COVENANT RELATIONSHIP: “…I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants…I will give to you and to your descendants…the land as a permanent possession; and I will be their God…[and] you and your descendants after you must keep my covenant throughout the ages.”  For our part, “all” we have to do (but that is ASKING A LOT!) is KEEP HIS COMMANDMENTS—love God with our whole being, and neighbor as self!

Today’s Mass for Justice

Today WE offer this Mass for JUSTICE for farmworkers (Filipino, Mexican) and for all.  I invite  Catholics among you to not be afraid to practice your faith, to live it out.  I am not talking about external gestures like thumping your breast in church or making the Sign of the Cross in a Restaurant, although these things are not at all bad.  What I am taking about is putting into practice the positive values your parents and grandparents.  Remember especially what your grandmothers taught you about loving God with all your heart, and your neighbor as yourself, and live out those values in your world as concretely and practically as you can.   You have to think about how, and then DO IT!

In the next few days, during this Palm Sunday weekend of March 23-24 and a week before Cesar’s Easter Sunday birthday, there will be seven marches in key agricultural areas as a means of honoring Cesar and promoting his legacy.  The UFW will be holding seven marches in key agricultural areas.Tens of thousands of farm workers up and down the west coast will be marching to continue Cesar’s vision of justice, dignity & respect in the fields. “Just to pay for permits and hire buses so farm workers from the surrounding communities have the chance to attend, it will cost more than $56,000.” [UFW website]  

I would like to send a token contribution in your name, and invite you to put a quarter or a dollar or more into the collection basket in a few moments as a gesture of solidarity.  It will not go to me, but to those organizing the several marches to take place in the next few days.  Whatever we collect, I will send in your name.  I invite you to support the marches, and am furnishing this website for further information and/or to make a contribution:

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Abraham is “Our Father in the Faith” as we will pray in the First Eucharistic Prayer.  He taught us how to put his faith into action.  I will call him our “Uncle in the Faith,” the contemporary Cesar Chavez who did the same thing within a different context.  Whatever life you live, wherever you live it, you are called to do the same: love God with your whole being, and neighbor as self—even when that is difficult, and COSTS.  The COVENANT is a relationship that comes from God’s promise and our expected response: You are among my favored children (of many nations!) and I promise you the eternal Promised Land of heaven.  All you have to do is love me, and be faithful to my commandments—be FULL OF FAITH, and live out your faith through the promotion of justice!

Be “Hope to (Workers) and Their Families”

The day before yesterday, on Tuesday the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, our new Holy Father Francis had his solemn installation as Pope. His message fills us with hope for a renewed and more humble church.  This first day of spring affirms new life in nature, as we anticipate the birthday of Cesar Chavez, a truly humble man. Had he lived, Cesar would have completed 86 years on April 23.  However, he died twenty years ago in 1993 at the relatively young age of 66, nevertheless, his farmworkers’ union gave hope to many Filipino, Mexican, and Black workers and their families in the fields.

The organizing of farmworkers is closely associated with Cesar Chavez, and rightly so.  However, Filipino pioneers in that labor struggle are too often forgotten, and merit due deference.

Shortly after I was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles almost fifty years ago, a priest ordained a few years ahead of me exhorted and urged me, “Go to Delano!”  We were both at a banquet sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he was giving the invocation.  Although at first I did not understand his invitation and challenge, it soon became clear he was talking about the nascent organization of farmworkers.  A few years later, I found myself at the headquarters of the farmworker movement in Delano, Central California where I ate a meal in FILIPINO HALL.  It was the first time I realized about the role of Filipinos in the struggle to organize farm workers in California.  They were the real pioneers.

 History of the Philippines and Its Heroes

Spain had colonized the Philippines and regularly interacted with the new world of America since some forty years before the landing of the Mayflower on American shores in 1620.  A Filipino Colony grew up in Louisiana since 1793.  After the Spanish American War in 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States, and mass Filipino migration to the U.S. began in the early 20th century.  That flow greatly increased after World War II, until today when there are over 4 million Filipino Americans, including multiracial Americans who are part Filipino.

Larry Dulay Itliong (1913 –1977), Philip Vera Cruz ( – ), and Peter Velasco are three farmworker pioneers who deserve honorable mention in the same breath as Cesar Chavez.  Itliong died in 1977.  By the age of 63, he was recognized as one of the fathers of the West Coast labor movement.   He rose to national prominence in 1965 when he became one of the key leaders leading the Delano grape strike.

Born in the Philippines, Larry Itliong immigrated to the United States at 15, and unsuccessfully began organizing farmworkers in the 1920s.  By 1929 and the following year, he joined his first strike, also unsuccessful. However, after thirty-five years (by 1965), he became the leader of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), an AFL–CIO union headquartered in Central California.  He organized The Delano Manongs, a group of 1500 Filipinos to strike against the grape growers of Delano. For eight days they struck alone, getting thrown out of their labor camp homes, and facing violence from growers’ hired thugs and the sheriff’s department.

A Parallel Development

In a parallel but later development, Arizona born Cesar Chavez—working out of Los Angeles— served as executive director of the Community Service Organization where Dolores Huerta also worked.  The CSO board did not go along with Cesar’s idea to spend quality time and energy in organizing farm workers, so they resigned and formed National Farm Workers Association.  BOYCOTT, STRIKE, PICKET; PROESSIONS, MARCHES PRAYER (special Masses: events funerals, etc.) AND FASTING; CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE, “Priest Workers”; DELEGATIONS OF NFWM, ecumenical and interreligious supporters; role of judicatories and National Catholic Conference of Bishops.

 One Hero Meets Another

Larry Itliong went to Cesar Chavez and his group of Mexican farmworkers and asked them to join the Filipinos in their strike. Larry Itliong should receive great credit for starting the Great Grape Strike in September (8th) of 1965.  It eventually led to the formation of the United Farmworkers Union led by Cesar Chavez.  A year leter, in August, the two groups merged together to created the United Farm Workers Union: Cesar’s National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) merged with Larry’s Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) to become the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, UFW AFL-CIO with Cesar Chavez as director and Larry Itliong as assistant director. Embracing the principles of non-violence, this hearty alphabet soup of a farmworker’s union that brought together thousands of California lettuce and vegetable workers and Florida orange workers.

However, sweetheart contracts that the Teamsers Union made with growers nearly destroyed it. They signed contracts with lettuce growers in the Salinas Valley, who wanted to avoid recognizing the UFW. Then in 1973, when the three-year UFW grape contracts expired, the grape growers signed contracts giving the Teamsters the right to represent the workers who had been members of the UFW.

The UFW responded with strikes, lawsuits and boycotts, including secondary boycotts in the retail grocery industry.

The battles in the fields became violent, with a number of UFW members killed on the picket line. The violence led the state in 1975 to enact the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act, creating an administrative agency, the ALRB (modeled after the NLRB Act of 1935) that oversaw secret ballot elections and resolved charges of unfair labor practices, like failing to bargain in good faith, or discrimination against activists.

Larry Itliong resigned the Union in 1971 because of disagreements about the governance of the union, but was posthumously honored in 2010 by inclusion in a mural at Dominguez Hills near the city of Carson in the South Bay area.  There is another mural of Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz located in Historic Filipino Town, incorporated 2006, near Westlake Park less than four miles west of downtown Los Angeles.

 The Need to Keep Legacies Alive

In recent years, the agricultural environment has reverted back to being something like it was 40 years ago—low wages, inhumane conditions and little political or social power for the farmworkers.  It is again important for Filipino Americans and Mexican Americans, together with all people of good will, to to keep alive the legacy of Cesar Chavez and his Filipino collaborators.   ¡Sí se puede!  ¡Que VIVA CESAR CHAVEZ!


(*Editor’s Note:  The above guest blogpost is written by Fr. Juan Romero, who knew and walked with Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day in support of farmworkers’ rights. Fr. Romero is from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and currently serves in the Diocese of San Bernardino.  [He is also my uncle; I love him very much.] This coming March 31 marks the birthday of Cesar Chavez; his legacy of “si, se puede” and the character of how he lived it, must continue on in us.)

(Photo of Cesar Chavez courtesy:  University of Colorado)

(*Editor’s Note:  The above guest blogpost is written by Fr. Juan Romero, who knew and walked with Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day in support of farmworkers’ rights. Fr. Romero is from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and currently serves in the Diocese of San Bernardino.  [He is also my uncle; I love him very much.] This coming March 31 marks the birthday of Cesar Chavez; his legacy of “si, se puede” and the character of how he lived it, must continue on in us.)

(Part I): In Honor of Cesar Chavez: Reflections on Farm Workers’ Struggle for Rights (1973) Wed, 27 Mar 2013 05:22:16 +0000 Continue reading ]]> cesar_chavez_story(2)


UFW Civil Disobedience Campaign

by Rev. Juan Romero*

[A massive Civil Disobedience Campaign led by the United Farm Workers Union resulted in the arrest of between 3,000 and 2,500 striker farm workers and supporters, including more than sixty priests, nuns religious brothers, and legendary Apostle of the Poor, Dorothy Day.  Also among those arrested and jailed was Father Juan Romero, executive director of PADRES, a national organization of Mexican American priests. The following is Juan’s personal account of his imprisonment in Fresno County Jail for thirteen days. All persevered in “praying and fasting” as a way to “cast out the demons of injustice.” His journal of the first two days was originally published in the PADRES Newsletter, September 1973, and is reprinted here in honor of the Golden Jubilee of the United Farm Workers Union, May 2012.]

–August 3, 1973 – 2 PM. Fresno County Industrial Farm, Caruthers, CA 93609.

I have been under arrest for 19 hours, and just moved into new quarters‚ “our third move.” The spirit is high, and beautifully strong; we are confirmed in our direction and action. When I joined the picket line yesterday morning, the line captains were very careful that we remain on public (state) property, “from telephone post to telephone post, outward toward the street‚” and that we do not trespass the property of the grower. The line itself was well-ordered and disciplined, although noisey: “HUELGA!” “VENGAN, COMPANEROS!” “ESQUIROLES!” “CHAVEZ SI, TEAMSTERS NO!” etc. The point of the pickets and gathering was precisely to challenge the injunction which is calculated to diminish the effectiveness of the strike. Let me go over a little more chronologically the sequence of events:

On Our Way North

Arrived from Puerto Rico, enriched from the ecumenical experience of reflection on Hispanic Ministry, but frankly I was a little bored from eight days in the lush paradise of the flamboyant and coqui.  It was a good time for dialogue and prayer, but a little too disconnected to the reality I live.  Dad picked me up Tuesday afternoon (July 31st) and took me to his seminary near Compton where he was studying and where I spent the evening. Wednesday morning I heard about the arrests of the priests and nuns in Fresno, and called the UFW headquarters in L.A. The people who answered were happy and surprised to hear from me. They gave me a run down of the situation, and asked me to mobilize people (priests and sisters) to go up to Fresno and/or send telegrams to the judge and sheriff who had the farm-workers, priests and nuns in jail. That was the end of my leisure vacation time with dad. I was in Los Angeles not only to visit him, but also to attend the Las Hermanas national meeting where I was scheduled to be a speaker. I spent much of Wednesday afternoon contacting people about the situation; urged telegrams, and prepared to come up to Fresno. I contacted some Sisters, but unable to persuade any to go to Fresno. Only one priest, “Ralph Luna,” was interested, willing and able come up with me. We borrowed a car from St. Linus parish in Norwalk where I had been assigned, and left L.A. about 8 PM.

We arrived about 1:30 in the afternoon at St. John’s Cathedral in Fresno where one of our PADRES, John Esquivel, lives.  Earlier in the day, he and Enrique (Abe) Lopez had visited the jail full of farm-workers, priests and sisters, and the padres left them a Spanish hymnbook that during my visit three months prior in May I had envied.  John gave us a map, and pointed out the town of Parlier where the 5 AM rally was to take place at the park. We got up at 4:15, and were shortly on our way.

It was still dark for the early morning ride to Manning Street in Parlier where the park is located. Upon arriving, we saw five sheriff cars before we saw any farm-workers.  In our borrowed, large blue station wagon, we parked in the lot next to a car with two local young Chicana women.  Shortly afterward, Sister Pearl came by and introduced herself, a nurse for UFW in charge of their clinics.  She took our names and that of “next of kin‚” who should be contacted upon arrest.

Cesar Chavez “Moves a Crowd”

We saw Rev. Chris Hartmire of the National Farm Worker Ministry, and he was happy to see me and Ralph. He mentioned that Dorothy Day arrived the day before, and that was an especially pleasant surprise!  Chris asked me to be master of ceremonies for the morning rally, and I was very happy to comply. Towards the end of the Rally, Cesar Chavez arrived.  In his powerful and quiet way, Cesar can truly move a crowd!  He is honest, tough, and straightforward. He spoke of the importance of unity and of the UNION, and of non-violence. He challenged his listeners to fight the fight with spirit but non-violently those who opposed the farm worker cause. He assured that would put Fresno on the map, and suggested the political recall of the judge and sheriff who stood in the way of farm worker freedom of assembly and freedom of speech. Cesar outlined the importance of asserting their rights right here in Fresno where unjust injunctions unconstitutionally denied free assembly and speech. He also asked: “What are you going to tell your children and your grandchildren when they ask you, ‘Where were you on that strike? Did you go to jail?'”

Dorothy Day’s ‘Sermon on the Mount’

By then, about a hundred people or so from the rally were ready to go to the picket line. Chris Hartmire informed me that Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement was one of them, and that we would be riding in the same car. Our car keys were collected, and Ralph and I joined a car that contained, besides Dorothy, a young Jesuit priest who is a new pastor at a parish in Spokane, a Chicana Sister of St. Joseph of Orange–a Health Organizer (male nurse and clinic director) for farm workers.

Dorothy Day reminded me of Simeon as she said with great sincerity and truth, “I am so happy to have lived to see this day!”  For most of her 78 years, she has been a champion of the poor, living with them in her deeply evangelical life style. She was plugged into some of the early organizing efforts of farm workers that failed here in California during the 30s.  She has been in jail ten times, and on long fasts many times, traveling along the path of non-violent search for justice that some have considered “anarchical.”

The first time Dorothy went to jail, she was the youngest of the group. This time, confessed, she is the oldest!  Careful to bring her own portable chair, Dorothy sat at one end of our picket line, reading aloud the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5) from a pocket New Testament. The day before, Dorothy wanted to read the New Testament to the sheriffs, but they were too far away. She promised to return the next day to read them the Sermon on the Mount, and redeemed her promise this day! Meanwhile, the rest of us chanted, cheered and invited: “HUELGA!” “VIVA CHAVEZ!” “ABAJO LOS TEAMSTERS!” SALGAN, COMPANEROS.” VENGAN CON NOSOTROS.” “NO SEAN ESQUIROLES!” (Strike! Long live Chavez! Down with the Teamsters! Come on out, companions–Don’t be strikebreakers!) We kept in our places for a while, and then began to walk in our orderly long rectangle, carefully keeping out of the private property.

Arrested at the Picket Line

Shortly after we had arrived at the picket line, two large buses, empty except for the driver, came and waited at the picket line. A Spanish surnamed sheriff officer said that he spoke in the name of the people of California, and through his efficient mobile loudspeaker system, he informed us that we were “UNLAWFUL ASSEMBLY!” He did not explain why we were “unlawful,” but just declared our gathering as such! One of my fellow inmates, a young Chicano intending to study law had with him a Penal Code book. In the evening, during the visit of a UFW lawyer, my companion inmate showed me the definition of an “unlawful assembly” that involved a “riot‚” and other things that did not apply!

The arresting officers were super nice to us, a contrast to the style of previous arrests other farm workers recounted to us. This time, for the mass arrest, the sheriffs loaded one large bus with the women, and the other with the men. The farm workers were asked to put their hands upon the bus while searched. It’s a scene I have seen in East L.A., especially three years ago during the days of the Chicano Moratorium in August 1970.

When my turn came to enter the bus, the officer kindly asked me if I had any knives or weapons. I wagged my head in the negative, and he simply invited me to get onto the bus. Not wanting clerical privilege, I just got in the line again. Another sheriff asked if I had been searched. I responded, “not really.” A little embarrassed, he cursorily went through the motions of searching me before I got on the bus.

We began our journey about 9:30 AM, and were first taken to the Industrial Farm where we arrived about 11:00 AM. The quarters looked like an army camp, bunk beds in a dormitory, but were comfortable enough. The sheriffs seemed unorganized, obviously not used to such large mass arrests at one time. Booking us proved to be a challenge. We were herded into an auditorium-like room where waited a short time. Soon we were given a false start, and then asked to go into the contiguous large room. Then we were told, “Not yet!” Finally, we did go into the next room where the booking process was taking place. Information sheet filled out and signed (or refused). Picture taken and numbered (MUG), and thumb prints taken. A courteous sheriff man filled out for me a form on which he checked in the box, “Mexican‚” as my ethnicity. Upon seeing that, I explained to him that I was born in this country, as were my parents, grandparents and ancestors for over four centuries. I asked to rather be identified as “Chicano‚” that I affirmed with pride of identity, not nationalism. However, to no avail insofar as that was not a choice.

During our bookings, the women arrived for the same procedure. They were warmly cheered, especially when Dorothy Day entered. After the bookings at the Industrial Farm, we were transferred on another bus to the Fair Grounds. At our new “home,” we had one large room‚ bigger than a large auditorium—no beds, just mattresses on the floor. The men prisoners who had been arrested on the picket lines the day before had been at the Fresno County Jail, and they had just come back from their arraignment in court. It was a good feeling to be with a group of people that included about 25 priests among more than 250 men.

Cesar Visits Our Jail

We later received the good news that Cesar would come with two priests to visit us the following day at 9:30 AM. Just that good news perked up the whole group. However, Cesar was detained with a telephone conversation with George Meany. The jail authorities wanted to move us to another facility before Cesar came, but the common decision of the men was to stay there at the Fair Grounds (temporarily converted to a jail, no beds or shower facilities) until Cesar came. He finally did, and it was a great joy! He was accompanied by Father John Coffield, one of my life’s mentors, and Rev. Chris Hartmire. Cesar spoke movingly, appreciatively, and gave some good news: The whole world is watching, and there is great support! Teamsters look like they want to back out!George Meaney is nationally marshalling even greater support!

From the Fair Grounds, some were taken back to County Jail, and the rest of us were taken to the Juvenile Hall (Youth Center of Fresno) since we could not all fit into the official jail. Here at the Youth Center, there are showers, and I’m going to indulge right now, 7 PM!

About an hour ago, at the six o’clock news in Spanish–yes, we had a TV in our Youth Center jail– a good ten minutes was dedicated to the whole (strike, picket line-injunction-civil disobedience) situation, including what is happening to us.  The farm workers, with evident pride, were hearing themselves talked about on television, and that mattered.

Mass and Perseverance Celebrated

In about an hour and a half, we will celebrate the Liturgy, have Mass. PADRES John Esquivel and Enrique Lopez of Fresno (John and Abe were with us for the PADRES Convention in L.A., October 1971. Abe was with us in April at TUCSON for our Retreat-Workshop with Dom Helder Camera. Father Woodruff who was at MACC for five weeks this summer came here to visit us about 4:30.  Fr. John returned later with the paraphernalia for the liturgy.)  We will praise and thank our God for health and strength, for perseverance toward victory in the struggle–a fuller share in the Paschal Mystery. “Viva La Huelga!”  “Viva Cesar Chavez!”  “Vivan Los Campesinos!”  “VIVA LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE!


–Los Angeles, Sunday: May 20, 2012

Early this morning at the United Farm Workers’ Convention in Bakersfield, central Calfornia, Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey is celebrating a Eucharistic liturgy (Mass) for farm workers and their supporters on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the UFW.  My thoughts and prayers are with them today as I salute and congratulate them. Thank God for the leadership of Cesar Chavez that made this day possible.  May Our Lady of Guadalupe continue to intercede for farm worker justice.

I have actively supported their organizing efforts since my priestly ordination over forty-nine years ago. My fortnight shy-a-day almost thirty-nine years ago in spiritual and physical solidarity with so many farmworkers and their supporters–including laity, clergy and religious women– remains one of the most satisfying events in my life. My Fresno County Jail time was the the most prayerful retreat I have ever experienced, and a privilege to be among the “salt of the earth and light of the world” for the duration. “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after justice, for they will be satisfied.”


Many gifted and highly effective people–including labor and religious leaders, entertainment people, politicians and plain folks of every walk of life–supported Cesar Chavez in his organizing efforts. His top tier of organzers and advisors included Dolores Huerta, attorney Jerry Cohen, Marshall Gantz, and many others. At this time, I wish to recognize two of Cesar’s lieutenants who especially inspired me with their dedication and service to La Causa: LeRoy Chatfield and Chris Hartmire. They were not only Cesar’s lieutenants, but generals in his army of workers whose salary was $5 a day plus board and room.

LeRoy Chatfield, former Christian brother, was a key strategist and tactician for the UFW. He was in charge of the highly effective boycotts of grapes and lettuce as a non-violent tool of social change.  He created the highly effective tool of the HUMAN BILLBOARDS that peppered the overpasses of L.A. Freeways and other other strategic locations during the California “NO on 22‚” Campaign in the fall of 1972.  After working with Cesar for the Union over several years, he became a special assistant to Governor Jerry Brown. In recent years, he has dedicated himself to a literary endeavor called the Syndic Literary Journal, an online magazine, and to the on-line Farmworker Documentation Project < >, a most ambitous project that serves as the largest data base of its kind.  LeRoy organized the Robert Kennedy Insurance Program for the Union, and after years of service with UFW, ran the Sacramento-based Loaves and Fishes program to feed the hungry.

I first met LeRoy c. 1970 when he came to Hollywood to meet with some priests from Los Angeles who attended a lecture at Blessed Sacrament Church that Bishop Hugh Donohoe–a former professor of sociology at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park–gave on the topic of the Church and Farm Labor.  As a relult of the meeting with Chatfield, the priests took out a paid advertisment in support of the Grape Boycott, and over twenty put their names to it.

Rev. Chris (Wayne) Harmire was a young Presbyterian minister when he founded the National Farm Worker Ministry–successor to the California Migrant Ministry– that provided inter-religous support to the organizing efforts. The Migrant Ministry provided food, clothes and some education to workers and their children on the migrant-worker trail, but the new Farm Worker Ministry began to focus on galvanizing support of the religious community for organizing efforts of farmworkers.  Although separate from the Union, it nevertheless worked hand-in-glove with the Union.  Chris, by the grace of God and the gentle-force of his personality was most effective in gathering the collective energy of leaders of various faith traditions to provide a moral and humanitarian basis for supporting farm worker unon organization.  NFWM provided effective ecumenical and interreligious cooperation in a significant joint effort.  Among the projects Hartmire coordinated were ecumenical/interreligious delgations to visit coprporate executives of chain stores to try to persuade their companies to honor the boycott by pulling out non-union grapes or lettuce.  It worked sometimes, but sometimes not.  Antoher project was to place on the local and natonal agenda of various church bodies–judicatories, dioceses, religious organizations–resolutions to support the UFW and/or the boycott efforts.

A word of appreciation to my schoolmate–two years ahead of me in seminary– and retired Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony.  As a young priest of the Fresno Diocese, he worked closely with the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ Committee on Farm Labor.  Together with Monsignor George Higgins, the Washington-based Bishops‚ “point-man on farm labor issues, +Roger Mahony helped to forge a consensus of the Catholic Church in support of farm workers’ right to organize and form their own union. This ultimately involved supporting the boycott of grapes/lettuce, a controversial and contentious tactic for some Catholics and many others. Cardinal Roger Mahony as Archbishop of Los Angeles presided at the funeral of Cesar Chavez in March 1993, and I had the honor of helping to organize the funeral rites.

The famed communitory organizer Fred Ross is credited with “discovering” the talent of Cesar Chavez, but more to the point Ross helped to hone the organizing ability Chavez through mentoring and action in the Community Service Organization. Others who mentored the young Cesar Chavez were Father Doand McDonald of San Francisco and the Franciscan priests of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Jose. They introduced him to the “social encyclicals” of Pope Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum of 1891) and of Pope Pius XI (Quadragesimo Ano of 1931). In spite of the affirmation at the highest level of Catholicism for the right of workers to organize unions for collective barganing, the instituional leadership of the Catholic Church in the United States was initially tepid in embracing the cause of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers.  Protestant leadership, especially by the Presbyterian Church through its California Migrant Ministry and later through the ecumenical and interreligious National Farm Worker Ministry, were quick to lend support.  Jewish leadership, following their prophetic tradition, promoted the cause of organizing farmworkers by getting out the word and helping to raise money to fund both the UFW and NFWM.

Cesar challenged his Catholic Church, specifically his priests and bishops to explicity lend their moral and financial support.  Msgr. George Higgins, a consultant to the U.S. Bishops on labor issues, was influencial in garnering support among the hierarchy. Father James Vizzard, S.J. used the pen to influence lay readers of the predominantly progressive Jesuit-published America national weekly magazine. Cesar’s challenging call found early resonance among Franciscan priests such as Fathers Mark Day, Lou Vitali, and Allen McCoy.  Mark was UFW Chaplain in 1968 during Cesar’s severe Lenten Fast of twenty-five days. Lou is an apostle of justice and peace active on many fronts, and Father Allen McCoy lent the credibility of his Franciscan Order to publically support farmworker organizing. Father David Duran, a priest of the Fresno Diocese, also served as chaplain for the UFW.  The Union also put to use his prior experience as an accountant. Father Victor Salandini, a priest of the San Diego Diocese known by some as the “Tortilla Priest,” was supportive with his ministry among farmworkers in the fields.

On Cinco de Mayo, 1970, Cesar–at the request of the Most Rev. Patricio Fores, the first Mexican Amerian Bishop ordained in the United States–proclaimed a scripture reading at the ordination ceremony in the stadium at the San Antonio Hemisphere Plaza. As a young farmworker growing up in Texas, Bishop Flores picked cotton.  As Bishop, he occasionally directly ministered to farmworkers, for example visiting Cesar in a California jail, presiding at the funeral of a murdered farmworker in Arvin, California. Members of the fledgling PADRES organization (Padres Asociados para los Derechos Religiosos, Educativos y Sociales) of Mexican American priests throughout the country followed the lead of their Presiden, Bishop Flores, in actively supporting the Union.
Cesar, may you not “rest” in peace, but continue to intercede before the the throne of God on behalf of farm workers of our country and of the world.


Below are other resources that touching upon my exprience in farmworker ministry that I wish to share on this Golden Jubilee of the UFW:

* 1973-FIGHTING FOR OUR LIVES (YouTube-Film Documentary)

* 50th Anniversary Documentation Project

* Notre Dame Journal of Eduction-MINISTRY TO FARMWORKERS

(*Editor’s Note:  The above guest blogpost is written by Fr. Juan Romero, who knew and walked with Cesar Chavez and Dorothy Day in support of farmworkers’ rights. Fr. Romero is from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and currently serves in the Diocese of San Bernardino.  [He is also my uncle; I love him very much.] This coming March 31 marks the birthday of Cesar Chavez; his legacy of “si, se puede” and the character of how he lived it, must continue on in us.)

(Photo of Cesar Chavez courtesy:  University of Colorado)

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Open Letter to the New Pope Francis Sun, 24 Mar 2013 23:53:42 +0000 Continue reading ]]>  

Part I:  Congratulations Pope Francis!

Dear our new “Papa”:

Congratulations on your “yes” to shepherd our Church!

Just wanted you to know–
I’m so grateful for the lifetime vows you (and all religious) have made.  You offer everything of yourselves as gift and sacrifice, for the one Christ loves so much:  His bride, the Church.  To make such radical promises is the mark of courage.  It takes incredible courage to give all who you are, withholding nothing of yourself to sacrifice and discipline, to nourish, guide and confront, all that meets you each day.

“In These Times”

In these times of working through scandals of abuse and crisis…..

In these times where, like the time of the Church during the days of St. Francis of Assisi, who helped reform the Church from within….via his own gifts of leadership, joy in his Creator, and simple way of living it out  (“Go out and spread the Good News…and if necessary, use words.”)

In these times of so many demands on our energy; keeping the focus on God and not our own agendas….

In these times…I see so much joy and dedication in the clergy of today.

“To Be Certain”

Do I know all the answers to questions swirling around today’s Church?  No.  Should abuse in the Church be properly addressed?  Work to heal, work to prevent?  Absolutely.  Is there room for hope and miracles, value of sacrifice, and gifts of grace?  Yes!

Of this I am certain:  many members of today’s clergy ARE leading a joy-filled life.  Living in great hope, humility and action to bring souls closer to God.  I see this in their long hours in the confessional.  I see this in the daily prayer for their charges’ souls.  I see this in patient tongues held in check, listening as we grant opinions (often without trying to “be” the change ourselves).  I see the energy.  I see the “tired” too.  Countless examples of dedication.

“’An Adventure To Live’”

The excerpt below was written by John Eldredge (Wild at Heart, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)  As with men in other vocations, I believe these same observations can be true for those called to serve in yours:

“There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul.  They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be.  I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself… the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.  I want you to think of the films men love, the things they do with their free time, and especially the aspirations of little boys and see if I’m not right on this.”

Here is what I see:  the battle to fight: holiness, on behalf of all whom you are called to serve.  The adventure to live:  to navigate through today’s challenges in joy and determination, despite unpredictable currents. The beauty to rescue:  Christ’s beauty, His bride—we, the Church.

Part II:  Gift to Bring

Dear Pope Francis,

What small gift of appreciation, could I bring to say “thank you”?

A song comes to mind: “Lead Me,” by Sanctus Real.    It’s an advice, a request, and an encouragement. Very simply–truly lead us, your Church, our families, and our world!

(Photo courtesy above:  credit unknown, but very much appreciated.)
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Finding Joy in Lent Wed, 13 Feb 2013 06:02:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Photo_Pudgy
Just in time for Lent, today’s offering comes straight from my pastor’s pen in our church bulletin.*  Worth repeating for the wider world–enjoy!

“As we approach the season of Lent, it is a time to take stock of our life and see whether we have been paying the right amount of attention to what really matters in our life….Our Faith speaks to all of us no matter who we are or how old.  Sometimes during Lent, we focus on the negative things, things that we have been doing poorly, our faults and failings.  That is a good thing as long as we lace that with why it is important to change.

Why Change?
It is important to change, because those negatives are limitations, are detours, or road blocks in allowing God’s love to penetrate us.  This is a side of the coin we don’t think of a lot.  God loves us and wants us to experience the rewards of that love.  It is this side of the coin to which I would like to draw your attention.  The joy of living and the joy IN living, and the things we might miss because we get much too serious sometimes.

Perspective Comes with Four Legs
There is a story about a six-year old boy whose dog was dying.  The parents were concerned that the boy was hardly even looking sad.  This concerned them since the dog had always been part of the family since the boy was born.  So they gently broached the subject.  They were amazed at his explanation.  He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life, like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”  He continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that–so they don’t have to stay as long.”

If we look at this another way, maybe dogs can teach us, wise and stressed-out people, a number of lessons:  Life simply.  Love generously.  Care deeply.  Speak kindly.

Remember, if a dog was the teacher, you would learn things like:  when a loved one comes home, always run to greet them; never pass up an opportunity to go for a joyride; allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstacy; take naps; stretch before rising; run, romp and play daily; thrive on attention and let people touch you; don’t try to guess intentions and be appreciative of everything; avoid biting when a simply growl will do; on warm days, stop, lie on your back and wiggle on the grass; on hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree; when you’re happy, wag your entire body; delight in the simple joy of a long walk; eat with gusto and enthusiasm; be loyal; never pretend to be something you’re not; if what you want lies buried, dig until you find it, and if you don’t find it, try another hole; when someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close and nuzzle them gently; be always grateful for each new day and for the blessings you do have.

Paws for Thought
As we approach the season of Lent, maybe we can reflect on some of these things and appreciate what we do have, what God has given us in each new day, the Faith we have been given, how we might not have been as grateful and sensitive as we should have, and thank God he has given us more time to do better.”

Happy Lent!  God bless,

Fr. Joe

(*Excerpted “From the Pastor’s Desk,” by Fr. Joe Nettekoven, San Antonio de Padua Catholic Church, Anaheim, CA, February 10, 2013)

(Photo: our beloved lhasa apso, who lived a joy-FULL 18 years, loved by all.)

True Change for India? Mon, 07 Jan 2013 06:55:35 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
With deep heartache, I read the story of “Damini,” a 23-year old woman who was gang-raped in New Delhi.  On December 29, she died of her injuries.  “Damini” had so much promise in her future!  There has been great outpouring in India over “Damini’s suffering, and also the topics of rape and other violent crimes against women.  These topics are receiving increased media and grassroots attention worldwide as well.

Is Change Possible? 

I am compelled to ask:  is “Damini’s” suffering and death sparking true change for India?  A possible shift in culture, hearts and minds to improve conditions for women?  India’s NDTV posed these questions to a panel of their country’s experts as part of its news coverage (“Has Gang-Rape Shocker Changed India?“, 1/1/2013)

What can we learn, from recent events?  Can true change be possible, in a world where cultural norms deeply embedded for many generations are now touched by a new generation attuned to the speed of (social) media?  (Certainly, for change to be “real” in any country or culture, it must be embraced as a community’s “own” will, rather than “forced” by perceived outside opinions or values).

Encourage Dignity, Prevent Violence.

Recently, I posted a guest presentation about “Namaste India.” “Namaste India” is a program to encourage the dignity of women, men and relationships; its very mission is well-poised to address and prevent the types of violence we’re reading in the news thousands of miles away.

What other communities around the world are struggling with the topics of violence against women?  Greater respect between the two genders? What best-case practices or ideas can be called upon?  And, just as important, what can we do?

These are worthy questions, and I look forward to exploring them with you.  Send me your input.  I’ll offer mine. Stay tuned!