Spring 1968: Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers

If there is a signal collaboration between Church and labor in the past half-century it is their shared advocacy for America’s migrant farmworkers. And if there is a single figure who symbolized the collaboration between Church and labor, it is Cesar Chavez, leader of the United Farmworkers. Chavez combined his Catholic faith with his union commitments to pursue justice for this exploited and largely immigrant workforce – the men and women who gather the harvest and place the food on our tables. His heroic nonviolence inspired trade unionists, Catholic clergy, lay activists and the faithful from all walks of life.

March 2018 marked a historic point in these events, as Chavez ended a hunger strike with an outdoor liturgy, joined by Senator Bobby Kennedy. America magazine recalls….

It was the most famous reception of communion in California history. No other single Catholic moment touched on race, labor and politics in such a profound way. On March 10, 1968, at an outdoor Mass in the small agricultural town of Delano, Calif., the farmworker union leader Cesar Chavez ended a 25-day hunger strike by receiving the body of Christ. Seated next to him was another prominent American Catholic, New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Within three months, Kennedy would be dead, and the hopes of the farmworker movement for a liberation from their exploitation would die with him.

For the complete story, see 50 years ago: The Catholic example of Cesar Chavez and Bobby Kennedy.

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