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Gone, but never to be forgotten…

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Bishop John Nevins (left) performs a mass in Immokalee on January 15, 2007, during his final days as bishop of the Diocese of Venice. Bishop Nevins passed away this past Tuesday at his residence in Venice, FL.

Bishop John Nevins has passed away, but his commitment to social justice and to the struggle of farmworkers in Immokalee will stand as an example for religious leaders for generations to come.  

He marched with us.

He called on growers to join in dialogue with us.

He called on corporations to sign Fair Food agreements with us.

And when six CIW members broke their 30-day hunger strike in 1997, he held a mass in Naples to celebrate their courageous stand and broke the fast with us. The first food the hunger strikers ate after 30 days was the host from his hand. 

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On January 20, 1998, Bishop Nevins blesses the CIW hunger strikers as they end their 30-day fast at a mass in Naples.

He stood with us from the earliest days of our organizing and he never wavered, choosing to spend his last day on the job before his retirement as bishop in Immokalee with us at the dedication of the CIW’s new community center.  

bishopnevins2He was always with us, and now he isn’t.

Bishop John J. Nevins passed away last week at 82, but he will remain with us, in our hearts and in our memories, forever.

The son of Irish immigrants

The very first time we met Bishop Nevins, he shared a personal story from his family’s history with us, a story that linked him to the community in Immokalee through the bonds of shared experience.  His mother, shortly after escaping poverty in Ireland and arriving  in the United States in search of a better life, applied for a job as a housekeeper.  She was turned away because she was Irish, and because she was Catholic.

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Bishop Nevins greets workers from Immokalee on their way across country ahead of the 2003 Taco Bell Truth Tour. He immediately donned a tour t-shirt upon receiving it from the CIW’s Lucas Benitez (on Bishop Nevins’ right).

Undaunted by that first bitter taste of the discrimination that all too many immigrants face, his mother persevered until she found a job, and her hard work allowed her to send her son to school and, eventually, into the priesthood.  His mother’s experience provided Bishop Nevins with enduring lessons about the intrinsic dignity of physical labor, and the inherent worth of every human being.  And when he became a priest, his mother asked that he promise her one thing — to “always take care of the immigrants, because they will always need your help.

He never let his mother down.

Bishop Nevins’ love for the Immokalee community was as deep as it was abiding.  He recognized in the CIW the same spirit of hope and struggle that he saw in his mother, and that personal affinity ensured that the bond between workers in Immokalee and their bishop was unconditional. 

He made it his job to reach out both to the farmworker community, and, most importantly, on behalf of the farmworker community, appealing to food industry companies, religious leaders, and his own church members to value the farmworkers’ hard work and embrace the CIW’s call for dignity and fundamental human rights.  As he told the Naples Daily News in 2007:

“I have followed (the coalition) very closely from the beginning,” Nevins said. “I am worried for them. I know their needs, and they need dignity.”  read more

Hearts filled with sadness…

After more than a decade of unwavering support for our work, Bishop Nevins retired in 2007, still three years before the Campaign for Fair Food finally turned the corner with the launch of the Fair Food Program in 2010.  Shortly after retiring and traveling for some time to visit his beloved Ireland, Bishop Nevins returned to Venice to live out his years in the diocese of which he was the first bishop and that he served for more than two decades.  And though his final years were a difficult struggle with a progressive illness that would ultimately take him from us, Bishop Nevins knew of the momentous victory in 2010, when more than 90% of Florida’s tomato growers joined the Fair Food Program, and of the unprecedented progress for farmworkers’ rights — and dignity — ever since.  He left us knowing that his tireless efforts on behalf of farmworkers were not in vain, and that he was an invaluable pioneer in what today has been called “one of the greatest human rights success stories of our day.

We wrote to Bishop Dewane, the bishop of our diocese today, this note of condolence on Bishop Nevins’ passing:

bishopnevins5Dear Bishop Dewane,
 
On behalf of the members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and our community we would like to express our deepest condolences for the passing of our dear Bishop Nevins. For us he was always one of the greatest supporters of our goal to improve the conditions in the fields of Florida. The news of his passing has filled our hearts with sadness.  We have lost not only a great leader of our church, but even more we have lost a beloved friend. We can only imagine how you and all in the Diocese must feel with this loss.  We are lost for words that could help ease the pain right now, but the knowledge that he is in good hands and looking down on us from God’s side and remembering us as he always remembered the neediest in the community.
 
May our friend Bishop Nevins rest in peace as we continue his work here on earth.
 
Our most sincere condolences, 
The Members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

Services for Bishop Nevins

If you live in Southwest Florida, you can join us in remembering Bishop Nevins at services in his honor today and tomorrow in Venice.
 
His body will lie in state from 3pm until 12 midnight on Tuesday at Epiphany Cathedral, with a Memorial Mass celebrated Tuesday evening at 7:00.
 
The Mass of Christian Burial will take place at Epiphany Cathedral on Wednesday, September 3, at 11:00 am.  
 
May the soul of our beloved Bishop John J. Nevins rest in peace.  
 
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Bishop Nevins shares a smile with the CIW’s Francisca Cortez at the opening of the CIW’s new community center in 2007.

 
 
 

The spotlight shines on the Fair Food Standards Council in must-read piece in Sarasota Magazine!

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Boot the Braids!… Student-led Wendy’s campaign set to hit the road running this coming school year!

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Ohio Freedom School scholars take up the Fair Food banner!

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Northern sojourn builds CIW bonds with Maine small farmers, Vermont dairy workers…

Visit carves out paths for expansion of Fair Food principles on two new fronts! Maine has been dubbed “The Vacation State,” and with good reason.  During at least one month of the year, there is probably nowhere in this country more beautiful than Maine, with its abundant fresh water ponds and lakes perfect for swimming, miles and miles of dramatic coastline, sprawling old growth forests, and rolling landscape of wild blueberry-covered hills dotted with ancient boulders. So leave it to the CIW to turn a visit to Maine in August into a work trip…  During a six-day sojourn in Maine and Vermont […]

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“Food Chains” private screenings in San Francisco, LA pack the house with food movement, farmworker organizing luminaries!

San Francisco press calls film an “incredibly moving documentary”; Dolores Huerta pledges to “joyfully promote the film and the Fair Food campaign”!… Last week was a busy one on the “Food Chains” calendar!  With two invitation-only screenings in California, the “Food Chains” road crew continued to marshal support for the first feature film to take a close look at the CIW’s Campaign for Fair Food and the groundbreaking Fair Food Program ahead of its big Nov. 21st theatrical release.  First up, San Francisco.  “Food Chains” director Sanjay Rawal reports from the scene: On Tuesday evening, chef Alice Waters, journalist Davia Nelson and documentary filmmaker James Redford […]

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“Tour de Fair Food” rocks Wendy’s in Denver!

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100 youth leaders from national food movement march on Wendy’s in Albuquerque, NM!

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“Food Chains” private screening in NYC brings out a VIP crowd…

Screening recruits powerful new allies in the fight for Fair Food! These past few weeks, while millions of Americans have been hitting the beaches or heading to the hills to escape the mid-summer heat, the intrepid film crew from the documentary “Food Chains” has been criss-crossing the country as part of the long promotional campaign ahead of the film’s big November release.   Their tour brought them to New York City this past Tuesday for an invitation-only showing of the film at the Bryant Park Hotel screening room in midtown Manhattan attended by a VIP crowd of Oscar-nominated filmmakers, representatives of leading philanthropical foundations, […]

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Fair Food Program featured on Catapult’s front page!

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You can run, but you can’t hide from Fair Food! Part II…

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“Why not put your name by all the others?…”

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Kroger slams door on human rights at shareholder meeting in Cincinnati!

CIW delegation turned away despite holding legitimate proxies; 100 stage impromptu march on Kroger headquarters to protest workers’ extraordinary exclusion from supermarket giant’s annual shareholder meeting…

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Cumberland Presbyterian women “Step Out” for Fair Food!

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Publix: “May your practices reflect God’s care. The world is watching.”

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“Shaping Generations”… United Methodist Women and the Fair Food Movement!

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