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Evansville, Indiana
March 6, 1992     The Message
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March 6, 1992
 

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4 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Perspective By PAUL LEINGANG Message Editor I was not quite wide awake as I walked across a lawn, helping my son finish his paper route early one morning this past week. What happened surprised me. I had two papers, one for each of the two white houses near the end of a block I tossed one on the porch of the first house, then swung wide in an arc to go to the house next door. That's when I realized something unusual. In a less than fully alert state of conscious- ness, I had just walked around a spot where a tree used to be. There was nothing to hinder a short walk be- tween two points, in a straight line, from one house to the next. The tree was no longer there. Something deep inside me must have guided me. Perhaps it was some painful memory of March 6 ,. A deeper memory, a Lenten thought walking through the dark into the small, hid- den branches of the tree that used to stand in the way of a lawn-to-lawn shortcut. What seemed more puzzling was that, not five minutes earlier, in another residential block, I could not remember which houses I was supposed to go to. My son had said clearly, to go to houses with address numbers ending in 60, 50, 63 and 59. He had to repeat it three times before I could make sense of it .And then I wasn't quite sure if I had gone to the right homes. An easy sequence of four numbers was too much to remember for my mind, but somehow my body remembered a tree that used to be there. Perhaps we all have something in common with the earth that remembers what to do in the spring. Even though calendar numbers say it is too early, the earth remembers what to do when temperatures rise to the warmth of our late February and early March. Bulbs burst forth with flowers. Buds form on branches. Winter wheat grows green against the dark winter soil. So much is at risk, to begin so soon in the year, but earth's memory of what to do will not be changed by such human reason. Deep inside of us, too, must be a memory of death and risky resurrection, of sin and risen re- demption. It is beyond reason, perhaps, but it is in us, somewhere-- a thought to ponter this Lent, as we move in memory and reality, in body and in soul, toward the mystery of Easter Washington Letter 9 Farm workers at risk: The nation's ongoing 'harvest of shame By LAURIE HANSEN legislative body to require all or use the laundromat," but Coast Migrant Health Project, has received the miniru Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) The national "harvest of shame" that Edward R. Mur- row's documentary on U.S. migrant farmworkers exposed some 30 years ago continues unabated. A report issued Feb. 24 by the General Accounting Of- rice, the investigative arm of Congress, charges federal laws and regulations inade- quately protect farmworkers, endangering their health and well-being. It says hardships faced by farmworkers -- an estimated two-thirds of whom are Hispanic -- haven't changed significantly in the last three decades. This nation of plenty should be embarrassed, con- tends Rep. Edward R. Roybal, D-Calif, chairman of the House Select Committee on Aging. "We, as a nation, have been negligent and uncaring," he commented as he released the GAO report at a Capitol Hill news conference. The Hispanic Catholic con- gressman was equally hard on fellow legislators. "Mem- bers of Congress could care less about the problems of farmworkers," he charged, noting that attempts to get the The MESSAGE 4200 N. Kentucky Ave. Evansville, IN 47720-0169 Weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Evansville Published weekly except last week in December by the Catholic Press of Evansville Publisher .............. Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger Associate Publisher ............... Rev. Joseph Ziliak Editor ............................................ Paul Leingan 9 Production Manager ........................... Phil Booer Circulation .................................... Susan Winiger Advertising .................................... Paul Newland Address all communications to P.O. Box 4169, Evansville, IN 47724-0169 Subscription rate: $12.00 per year Single Copy Price: $.50 Entered as 2nd class matter at the post office in Evansville, IN 47701. Pubtica- tion number 843800. Postmaster: Return POD forms 3579 to OfficaOf Publication  1992 Ca'd3olic Press of Evansville farmworkers be provided toi- lets and drinking water have been roundly defeated. Such efforts, however, have had the strong support of the U.S. bishops. The 1970 Occu- pational Safety and Health Act required agricultural em- ployers to provide basic sani- tation services, but farms with 10 or fewer workers re- main exempt and some camps supply only one or two toilets for hundreds of workers. Waiter Grazer, U.S. bish- ops' deputy director for Mi- gration and Refugee Services, told Catholic News Service Feb. 27 that a major reason the farmworkers' plight re- mains unaddressed is that the workers "are a relatively powerless group, scattered across the country." Some, he noted, lack legal immigration documents. "The whole system lends itself to exploitation," said Grazer. The public fails to become outraged, in part, because farmworkers remain "a hid- den people .... They come to town once a week to buy food otherwise are invisible, said Franciscan Sister Adela Gross, U.S. bishops' coordinator of migrant con- cerns who has worked with farm laborers in Minnesota, North Dakota and Texas. In some parts of the country, she said, farm- workers are viewed as un- wanted intruders. "People think they're just here to get food stamps or welfare. They don't understand what they're doing or how hard they work." The most recent statistics on life expectancy for U.S. farmworkers tell a tragic story. According to a 1980 study by the U.S. Depart- ment of Health and Human Services, a U.S. farmworker can expect to live to age 49, compared to age 73 for the rest of the population. Among reasons for the disparity is that the Mi- grant Health Program, es- tablished by Congress, serves less than 15 percent of farmworkers because of its budget limitations, said Norma Rivers, director of the Washington-based East which was set up by Catholic nuns. Contributing to the prob- lem, she said, are employers "who don't look at farmwork- ers as human beings, but as tools. If they break down, you replace them." Such atti- tudes, she said, make farm- workers reluctant to be absent from work for illness or medi- cal checkups. Sister Gross said missing from the GAO report were farmworkers' wage-related concerns. "Farmworkers need to in- cluded in the minimum wage law," she said, noting that farmworkers are paid in many different ways, includ- ing "by the acre, by the crate, by the box and by the basket." Sister Gross said such methods of payment mean a worker gets no wages when "there are only so many pick- les to be picked," or "it rained, so a day or two of work were missed." As a re- suit, at the end of the month "it's rare that a farmworker wae," she said. .1IV o . "nll z While agriculture orzgl j was exempted from st ': labor practices toproteCt ]d, ily farm operations, she . the realit today is that,[e Y  d la flv farms are few an _dae agribusiness concerns aru- ones benefiting, n tlze Sister Gross called o .-,,1" U.S Department of Agr , ' lllw ture to approve EnvirO B" tal Protection Agency reyect tions designed to pru,f. farm workers from th;e;lle ful effects of Desticl h.6 regulations, she said,.,,o 0'l { been on hold for a c'rf, li years" because of wra aza- between the two agen.ci' tlze Findings reported 1 GAO report include: field Farmworkers enter ,,h, -- ... lW sprayed with pesticzd.e se, out "knowledge of tlae , cific chemicals theY atial oteW ' posed to or the P,Aestr health effects." The .r'iar97 mates that annually-,,000 300, workers suffer up to ._;ttrieS acute illnesses and !J, s. ;de' from exposure to pestzi[pao See WASHINGT Bishop's sch00 dule The following activities and events are listed on the schedule of Bishop Gerald A. Gettelfinger Being with Christ at Mass To the editor: gaining blessings for one's "I don't get anything out of going to Mass," some say. Ev- idently being with Christ and family is not enough. Rev. Rawley Myers Colorado Springs, CO J