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Seeking to Make the World a Better Place
Testimony delivered by Sebastian Young, Archbishop Mitty Class of 2022 at the Diocese of San José Saints in the City Celebration on November 19, 2021
Today, the Diocese of San José has chosen recipients for four awards that signify the religious lifestyle of four saints with distinct qualities––Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral. These qualities represent what it means to be fearless and to provide grace as young disciples of Jesus. For those who did not know, the Greek term Kecharitomene translates to “having been graced.” In Luke’s gospel, he describes Mary as the fullest of grace by writing, “Hail, full of grace,” implying there is no greater term to describe her. I am humbled and honored to accept this award on behalf of Archbishop Mitty High School and to be with you all tonight, celebrating the greatness of the impact we have had on our communities, schools, and parishes.
Each year at Archbishop Mitty, we select a liturgical theme song to guide our community. During my freshman year, the lyrics of Jasmine Murray’s “Fearless” guided me to be courageous as I went on my first retreat and the parable of the mustard seed encouraged me to make an impact on my community. As freshmen, we are the smallest seed on campus, and just like the mustard seed, we have grown into one of the largest trees, where we model the qualities of the saints––Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral––for our peers as high school seniors.
Taking this message to heart, I wanted to have an impact on those whom we fail to appreciate farmworkers. According to the US Bureau Labor of Statistics, the agricultural industry has approximately 573 fatalities every year with an average life expectancy of only 49 years. Due to the toxic pesticides they are exposed to for many hours, being a farmworker is one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Combining the lack of personal protective equipment and low-wage jobs, these families struggle to survive on a daily basis, then to add a global pandemic, the situation worsens. Thus, helping farmworker families is important because their sacrifices benefit us in terms of nutrition and low-priced fruits and vegetables.
Jesus tells us to love our sisters and brothers in need, and I sought to combine my Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral qualities to make an impact on this community. Working with the Mitty Advocacy Project as the immigration reform team for four years, we created policy proposals. Our proposals lobbied legislators to provide pesticide protections for farmworkers, mental health resources for migrant children in detention centers, and COVID-19 relief checks for farmworkers. In September 2019, I attended, with the Mitty Advocacy Project, a Farmworker Reality Tour at the Center for Farmworker Families in Watsonville. Here, I heard stories from farmworker families of making the dangerous trek to the United States. After this tour, I knew I wanted to work with this community. Sadly, we seldom think about the people who pick our food or the stories behind where our food comes from.
In Winter 2021, with the COVID-19 lockdown fully in place, I collaborated on a school-wide donation drive with Campus Ministry, Latinx Student Union, and Mitty Advocacy Project for farmworker families. We hosted the Con Bondad: A Farmworker Family Drive partnering with Watsonville’s nonprofit organization, Center for Farmworker Families because not even COVID can stop “caridad,” or charity.
Despite being fully online during distance learning, the Mitty community donated over 450 items to serve over 350 farmworker families. Through this experience, I realized the impact high school students can have on a marginalized community and the power of living out Mitty’s motto of being “made in the image and likeness of God.”
Jesus teaches us to love our brothers and sisters in need and this drive allowed our school community to be, in the words of St. Teresa of Ávila, the hands and feet of Christ and to take care of our sisters and brothers, especially during a global pandemic.
In March 2021, Campus Ministry gifted me the opportunity to reflect on the drive at an all-school assembly. Discussing the impact the drive had on farmworkers, faculty, staff, and students, I learned the power of using my voice and the important impactful ripples service can provide to the farmworker community and my school community.
This year, I am in my final year of high school, and Mitty’s liturgical theme song is “Home” by Phillip Phillips and it serves as a great message to our school community as we continue to make Mitty our home after a year of distance learning. In addition, as a member of our LIFE (Living In Faith Experience) Corps, I seek to bridge the life of faith with service and provide a home for Mitty students through our senior youth group.
Through leading retreats, becoming a Eucharistic Minister, and reflecting and leading liturgies and assemblies, I have grown in my faith and the meaning of seeing God in all things. In addition, the power of advocacy has led me to collaborate in the creation of policy proposals to benefit farmworkers and continue seeking immigration reform through systemic justice. Overall, I have sought different ways to become Jesus’ disciple. Most recently this month, Mitty’s Advocacy Project partnered with San José State University to host Dr. Ann López, the executive director for the Center for Farmworker Families, where she discussed issues of race in farmworker communities. Being made in the image and likeness of God stems from Human, Spiritual, Intellectual, and Pastoral as youth seek to make the world a better place for all.
Thus, I hope through being saints in our communities, we can continue embodying the gifts we are given and to continue to embrace our fellow sisters and brothers because, as the song goes, “We are one in spirit, we are one in the Lord, and we pray that our unity may one day be restored, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Thank you.