Farmworkers welcomed to Hammonton at Mass

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HAMMONTON — During these hot summer months, hundreds of Haitian farmworkers pick the blueberry fields in this Atlantic County community. With sweat on their brows and dirt under their fingernails, they make possible the delicious pies, cakes, muffins, pancakes and milkshakes that have given Hammonton the title of “Blueberry Capital of the World.”

Following Mass, farmworkers were treated to a reception. Many of the dishes were prepared by parishioners of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Galloway.

In appreciation of their labor, the Diocese of Camden once again celebrated a Mass of reception and welcome for the farmworkers at their camp on Columbia Fruit Farms on the first evening of summer, Friday, June 21.

This was the ninth annual Mass.

As many farmworkers make the June-August visit up from Haiti every year with their families, the gathering has a festive, all-ages atmosphere of faith and fellowship.

“I’ve been here so many times,” said Anchela Duroseam with a smile.

A native of Haiti, she came to the United States as a young girl with her family in 2007. Now, as a parishioner of Galloway’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, she serves on the committee for the annual Mass.

“I see the joy this brings, and I wanted to continue it,” she said.

Father Nicolas Jean Vanes, parochial vicar at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and minister to the Haitian Catholic community in South Jersey, was the celebrant and homilist of the Mass, which was celebrated in Haitian Creole and English. Several priests of the diocese concelebrated.

Father Nicolas Jean Vanes accepts a basket of blueberries during the offertory at the Mass of welcome for Haitian farmworkers in Hammonton on June 21. —– Photos by Alan M. Dumoff

Afterward, a meal prepared and served by thankful volunteers was provided for the estimated 800 men, women and children.

“This was a beautiful experience,” said Father Yvans Jazon, a Haitian priest of the Diocese of Camden who has ministered to the Haitian community. Currently, he is administrator of Saint Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood.

“It’s great to see the Church of South Jersey reach out to these hardworking, faithful and joy-filled men and women,” he said.