Fr. Alejandro Reyes
Diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico
In the Hatch Valley, 80 miles northwest of El Paso, laborers take to the fields at dawn and do the back-breaking work of picking chiles from low-growing plants. Ninety percent of these field workers are Hispanics who make little money. They are largely unseen by the American public, which so relishes the fruits of their labors. They are a faceless, forgotten subset of America's workforce.
But Father Alejandro Reyes knows their faces because he takes the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession to the fields, where he administers them to the workers in tents.
The ministry of Father Reyes calls to mind the ministry of Jesus to the field-workers of Galilee.
The harvest of souls in the chile fields is indeed great, and laborers who serve them are indeed few. Father Reyes comes to them, bearing the Light of Christ not only in the peoples' churches, but also in the peoples' place of work. That Light brings the comfort, re-assurance and inspiration of Christ's love for all humanity. And that makes all the difference to the faceless and the forgotten.
The field workers, who might have a hard time attending Mass in a church, or finding welcome among strangers, are brought into the community through the ministries of Father Reyes and his assistants. Equally as important, the faith of those community members who practice Catholicism grows in its strength and richness, due to the nurturing presence of those who come to them in the Light of Christ.
“Father Reyes is an inspiring servant of the faithful people of the Hatch Valley of the Diocese of Las Cruces,” said Most Rev. Gerald F Kicanas, Apostolic Administrator of Las Cruces, “He truly is a blessing to his beloved parishioners.”
Taking Christ to the fields through his Real Presence in the Eucharist brings his people into communion with the Divinity. But that isn't the end of Father Reyes's ministry. He also brings forgiveness and renewal, much as Jesus brought those infinite blessings to the humble people of Galilee. Father Reyes brings those blessings to the people of Hatch Valley by pitching a tent where they work and offering the sacrament of Reconciliation on the spot. Of course, it is the reconciliation of Christ that is transmitted through Father Reyes to the faithful in the fields, but if Father Reyes was not in the fields, that reconciliation would have to come some other way, if at all.
Many of those who work in the chile fields of the Hatch Valley are seasonal, migrant laborers. The faith that is strengthened in them from their encounters with Father Reyes becomes a deeply-embedded ingredient of their souls. In that way, the Light the workers receive from Father Reyes travels with the workers wherever they may go in their migrant work. In all the communities they visit, they may bring the Light to uncountable numbers of souls. The Light of Christ is, after all, contagious.