While bishop of Cheyenne, he said that Catholics at every church in the state were asked to pray for two intentions at Mass: vocations to the priesthood and water.
“Out in Wyoming, water is a scarce commodity and water is such a precious resource,” he said. “It’s a gift from God. When you’re out in a semi-arid type of setting, you recognize what a gift water is.”
As a gift from God, water is one of the natural resources that people must protect and use wisely, said the bishop. Farmers, especially, understand this concept, which the church calls stewardship.
“The one thing that ties us together is the gift of our faith and the gift of stewardship,” said Bishop Ricken. “God has given us many resources here in Wisconsin and we ought to be constantly and always grateful for those resources.”
He explained that while civil law dictates ownership of personal property, “actually everything belongs to God. When we die and go to heaven, hopefully, (possessions are) still here. It’s all on loan from God. Therefore, it’s very important to recognize that we have been given a strong responsibility for stewardship.”
Bishop Ricken also spoke about challenges facing farmers, including agribusiness and the stress placed on families.
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When people do not view natural resources through the prism of good stewardship, they become greedy, said Bishop Ricken. This can happen when corporate America steps into the farming industry.
“I’m not against agribusiness,” said Bishop Ricken. “I think agribusiness has a place. But to the extent that we allow greed to take over, we’re going to be in for big problems.”
One only needs to look at current economic problems to see how greed can hurt people, said the bishop.
“Greed took over a whole segment of the economy that affected not just our country, but the whole world,” he said. “Greed is not based upon principles except self-exaltation. That’s not one of God’s principles. That’s not how we are supposed to operate. To the extent that we participate with agribusiness (and it ) becomes a greedy enterprise, benefiting just a few, then we have a problem.”
Bishop Ricken said he was not espousing a socialist approach to running business. “I’m talking about being able to provide a dignity of life and income and purpose by which many people can share a quality of life,” he said.
When stress does plague farm families, it can lead to negative consequences such as domestic violence. Bishop Ricken urged the farmers to seek assistance if they face such burdens.
He said the diocese, through Catholic Charities, can help families with financial problems. Counseling is also available through Catholic Charities when emotions lead to physical and emotional violence, said the bishop.
“If you’re having trouble, get help,” he said. “Getting help is a humbling thing to do and it will help us negotiate the stress of difficult time.”
He reminded the assembly that funding to the Bishops’ Appeal helps support Catholic Charities services.
“There’s a lot of stress on family life,” he told the congregation. “That is why we are here. I want you to know that the church is here for you and I pray for families every day.”
Following the Mass, Bishop Ricken blessed seeds and soil brought to the church by area farmers. The assembly then processed outside for a blessing of animals and farm implements.