In the summer of 1953, the American Bishops’ Committee for the Spanish Speaking (BCSS), in collaboration with members of the Mexican Catholic hierarchy, launched “Operation Migratory Labor” (OML). This crossborder missionary program brought priests from Mexico to provide Spanish-speaking ministry to Mexican agricultural laborers in the U.S., more commonly known as braceros. An examination of OML’s creation, career, and demise, set within the context of the broader work of the BCSS and other Catholic agencies, illuminates important features of the American Catholic Church’s evolving apostolate to its Hispanic members in the midtwentieth century. During its existence, OML encountered a variety of practical challenges which restricted its development and ensured that the program would never fully achieve its mission. More importantly, as the 1950s progressed, OML was increasingly out-of-step with an emerging American Catholic social critique of the bracero program, which assessed it as undermining the working and living conditions of agricultural laborers, degrading human dignity, destabilizing family life, and jeopardizing their moral well-being. An examination of the history of OML helps illustrate the emergence in the 1960s of Catholic Hispanic ministry in the U.S. focused on promoting the material and spiritual wellbeing, and integration of the nation’s Hispanic population, whether native or foreign-born.


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pp. 75-98
Launched on MUSE
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