The Mass and luncheon will serve as an early celebration of Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of freedom and liberty commemorating the May 5, 1862, victory of 4,000 Mexican soldiers over armies made up of French and rebel Mexicans.
For Roman Catholics, May 1 is also the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, which honors Jesus' earthly father as the personification of the dignity of the manual laborer and the guardian of the worker's family.
In addition to celebrating Mass, Bishop Conlon will also baptize several children from the migrant community, according to the Rev. Walter Heinz, pastor at Sacred Heart.
The May Day celebration has special significance this year. It is also the day migrants in several cities are expected to begin a week-long boycott of American businesses to demonstrate their importance to the economy and to protest legislation designed to crack down on illegal immigration into the U.S.
Rev. Heinz said the Monday celebration is “by no means” part of the boycott or any statement on the ongoing debate about migrant labor or illegal immigration.
The local Catholic parish is about to begin its second year of ministry to the migrant workers, who provide labor on vegetable farms along the Ohio River during the summer months.
The Our Lady of Guadalupe Mission was begun last summer in Portland, but this year, a Spanish-language Mass will be added to the Saturday mass schedule at the church. Those weekly Spanish Masses will be celebrated at 8 p.m. every Saturday, beginning May 6. The workers will be transported to and from Mass by bus.
The Diocese of Steubenville has appointed Sister Francesca Aguilla of Wheeling, W.Va., to assist in ministry to the migrant workers throughout the 13-county diocese. A native Spanish speaker, Sister Aguilla will work again this year to help the workers overcome language barriers, aid them in finding needed social services, and, according to Rev. Heinz, work in areas of religious education and evangelization.
According to Rev. Heinz, there are approximately 100 migrant workers in the county during the peak summer growing season, and another 100 or more across the Ohio River in the Ravenswood, W.Va., area. Those migrants in Jackson County, W.Va., are served through a cooperative ministry of Baptists and Roman Catholics, Heinz said.
The ministry to Meigs County migrants is also a cooperative one. Heinz relies on assistance from other Catholic priests in a rotating Mass schedule. The Rev. Regis Schlick, O.F.M. Cap., from Point Pleasant and Mason, W.Va., parishes, Monsignor William Myers of St. Louis Catholic Church in Gallipolis and the Rev. David Huffman from the St. Ambrose Church in Porterfield are among those who will help celebrate the Saturday night Spanish-language Masses, with Sister Aguilla serving as translator.
Heinz estimates that there are now approximately 50 migrants living in Meigs County.