By Mark R. Day
Special to La Prensa San Diego
“The evil twin inside me makes me want to go after the Minutemen,” Fr. Bud Kaicher told a packed congregation at St. Peter’s Church in Fallbrook July 25 as he began his sermon at a prayer service for day laborers. “But that is not why we are here tonight.”
Since mid-June, The San Diego Minutemen and other anti-immigrant groups have been holding protests at St. Peter’s for hosting a site where day laborers can solicit work from employers. The tone of the demonstrations has grown virulently anti-Catholic. And recently, things turned violent when a Minutemen assaulted a parishioner with a can of pepper spray.
Father Bud has sought to calm tempers. “Instead of confronting the Minutemen, said the thin, ascetic-looking priest, flanked by two of his deacons, “we are here to pray for them and to reaffirm our faith in Jesus Christ and in the central mission of the church. And that is to serve the poor.”
Both Kaicher and Deacon Manuel Villareal, who preached in Spanish, referred to Matthew, Chapter 25, for the scripture verses that guide their work at St. Peter’s: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me…..”
In addition to direct aid to the poor, St. Peter’s also has an “organizing ministry” which deals with the material needs of parishioners in issues such as housing and health care. The ministry team regularly organizes letter writing campaigns and visits to local congressmen and senators to press them on urgent matters.
When pro-immigrant groups recently offered to counter protest each Saturday at St. Peter’s against the Minutemen, Fr. Bud and his staff urged them to stay away in order to avoid further provocations. Instead, Fr. Bud and his staff ask that supporters come and offer jobs to the day laborers. “That is what this is really all about,” said one parish leader. “The bottom line is that the men need work.”
Concluding his sermon, Fr. Bud told the congregation, including Catholic pastors and clergymen from the Unitarian Church and Protestant denominations: “We don’t just get into the kingdom by serving the poor. We make the kingdom happen. The real question is not what God wants us to do, but do we have the courage to do it?”
As part of the service, day laborer Santos Martinez described his journey from Mexico to provide for his family. “I came here out of necessity. I have suffered, and sometimes there are no jobs. But here I have found help.”
The congregation applauded Martinez for his testimony. Afterwards, the deacons lighted candles from the paschal candle and led the churchgoers outside where they blessed the day labor center.