A Team Effort
The Catholic parish in Hastings welcomed the visiting community of RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers to a celebratory Mass followed by BBQ lunch at St Peter’s Chanel Church on Sunday 8th May. The joyous Mass, celebrated by Father Trung Nguyen, and reception marked the end of the seasonal harvest in Hawke’s Bay and the time for many RSE workers to return to their families in the Pacific Islands.
Coming into effect in New Zealand in April 2007, the RSE scheme recruits RSE workers from eligible Pacific countries to fill seasonal temporary roles within the horticulture and viticulture sectors. The scheme has answered a major employment shortage for two of New Zealand’s significant export industries, and its success has increased the scheme’s capacity from 5,000 workers initially to around 16,000 RSE male and female workers this year. It is now a familiar sight to see the Pacific Island visitors join Hastings’ community during the months of November to May, with many RSE workers returning to the same employers and contract gangs year after year.
The end-of-season BBQ and clothing for collection has become a yearly tradition at St Peter Chanel and is a project that the whole parish has embraced. St Vincent de Paul financially sponsors the day, contributing over $1,000 to the food and donating clothing for the workers to take home with them. Joan Thompson and Jim Leogreen are the driving forces behind the day, but Jim admits “it is very much a team effort, an interdenominational initiative thanking the hard-working RSE workers for their efforts on behalf of the country. We invite the workers to come and enjoy some refreshments and fellowship within our parish community before they head home to their own families.”
In addition to this show of thanks, St Vincent de Paul supports RSE workers throughout the season with food parcels, getting to know those who attend masses at Sacred Heart and St Peter Chanel, and visit their shops in Hastings and Flaxmere.
Due to COVID-19 and the country’s border closures over the past two years, the mass and lunch has not taken place since 2019, but Father Trung was thrilled to hear this year’s lunch had drawn the biggest crowd yet: “Just as our parish prayer says – ‘Make the Catholic Parish of Hastings a family of one heart and one mind, in love towards you and each other. In living as Christ may we be a servant people who welcome, accept and show compassion to all.’ Our Church is small but our door is always open and today we welcome and thank the RSE workers visiting our country.”
People of Faith, worshiping, socializing, playing and sharing life together.