Parish welcomes Hawke’s Bay RSE workers

WelCom June/July 2022 Sally Cawston The Catholic Parish of Hastings welcomed the visiting community of RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers to a celebratory Mass at St Peter’s Chanel Church followed…

WelCom June/July 2022

Sally Cawston

Parish welcomes Hawke’s Bay RSE workers Archdiocese of Wellington
RSE workers enjoy end-of-season parish lunch in Hastings.
Photo: Sally Cawston

The Catholic Parish of Hastings welcomed the visiting community of RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) workers to a celebratory Mass at St Peter’s Chanel Church followed by BBQ lunch. The Mass, celebrated by Fr 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 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 these two significant export industries. Its success has increased the capacity from 5,000 workers initially to around 16,000 RSE workers this year. It is now a familiar sight to see the Pacific Island visitors join Hastings’ community during the months from November to May, with many workers returning to the same employers and contract gangs year after year.

The end-of-season parish BBQ in May and collection for clothing has become a yearly tradition at St Peter Chanel and the whole parish has embraced the project. St Vincent de Paul 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 these hard-working people for their efforts on behalf of the country. We invite these valued men and women to come and enjoy some refreshments and fellowship within our parish community before they head home to their own families.’

In addition, St Vincent de Paul supports RSE workers throughout the season with food parcels where needed, their visits to Vinnies shops in Hastings and Flaxmere, and getting to know those who attend Masses at Sacred Heart and St Peter Chanel.

Due to Covid-19 and New Zealand’s border closures over the past two years, the Mass and lunch have not taken place since 2019. Fr Trung said he 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.’