400 attend the groundbreaking of the CIW’s new Community Center and celebration of Bishop Nevins’ twenty-two years of service in the Diocese of Venice…

From the Naples Daily News (“A friend of farmworkers,” Jan. 15, 2007):

“Nevins, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Venice, turns 75 Friday and by Catholic law must step down. He ordained his successor, Bishop Frank Dewane, in July.

There was no better place to spend some of his last hours than Immokalee, Nevins said, where his support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has left a legacy of advocates from religious groups…

During his 22 years in the Diocese of Venice, Nevins was one of the first prominent figures to take a public stance on labor conditions of Immokalee farmworkers. He wrote letters to Taco Bell requesting that they raise the price per bucket of tomatoes… He participated in the coalition’s organized marches. And he often visited Immokalee to celebrate Mass with them…

In beginner’s Spanish, he said he knew their hopes and their fears as immigrants in America. His mother, who was an immigrant from Ireland, taught him to recognize that, he said.

Four days after she arrived in New York in 1928, she went to apply for a housekeeping job and experienced her first moment of prejudice there.

“She was refused because she was Irish and Catholic,” Nevins said.

Toward the end of the groundbreaking ceremony, colored cutouts of hands were passed out for people to place on the building as a sign of solidarity.”

See the Naples Daily News story in its entirety here, and be sure to visit the gallery of excellent photos chronicling the day’s events included in the Daily News’ online report (the pictures above are taken from the Daily News article). Also, click here to see the Catholic News Service article, “Helping migrant workers remains major challenge, bishop says,” (Jan. 17, 2007). The article deals with Bishop Nevins’ final pastoral letter as Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, in which he addresses the the urgency of the need for significant reforms in the wages and working conditions of migrant farmworkers, concluding “the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members.” Read the Catholic News Services article here. There are truly no words to adequately express our love and admiration for Bishop Nevins. His tireless advocacy and genuine warmth were the very best example of what many in the Catholic Church have called the Church’s historic “preferential option for the poor,” and his example laid the foundation for the vast and growing network of religious support for our struggle that today stretches across the nation. He was our first — and he remained, to his last day in service, our most steadfast — ally from the faith community, and we will always hold him in our hearts.