Both events will include blessings of seeds and farm equipment, special prayers for a fruitful growing season and lunch at 11:45 a.m. with a speaker to follow.
This year’s Rural Life Day luncheon speaker will be Norbertine Fr. James Baraniak, pastor of St. Norbert College Parish in De Pere and a priest-son of Ss. Mary and Hyacinth Parish in Antigo. His topic will be “Sowing the Seeds of Love.”
Using that song title as a theme, he intends to speak about the ways Jesus used agricultural themes in his parables to teach about the Kingdom of God.
“We are all called to sow the seeds of love, even if we don’t have a farming background,” said Fr. Baraniak. “I plan to blend the scriptural tradition of Jesus speaking to farmers and do the same thing from my own experience of living in a farming community with small town Midwest values.”
He added that, in this year of presidential elections, he keeps hearing candidates speak about “America’s heartland, the farmland. We (farm towns) have a good reputation.”
Deb Wegner-Hohensee, who coordinates rural life for the diocese, said the diocesan Rural Life Committee wants to build on that good reputation and increase awareness of the importance of rural life to the local Catholic community. She noted that part of Bishop David Ricken’s recent pastoral letter on parish life cited the issue of “the care of God’s creation” as a hallmark of social justice.
“The earth has to be protected,” said Wegner-Hohensee. “It’s a gift from God.”
A member of St. Wenceslaus Parish in Neva, Andrew Bures, was recently discussing the importance of rural life with Wegner-Hohensee. “People need to be aware of where their existence comes from,” Bures said. “It comes from the ground, from people who cultivate the land.”
Wegner-Hohensee said that the mild winter this year has given farmers confidence that there was no grain loss over the winter and fueled optimism that last year’s wet, cool spring will not be repeated this year. She noted that even the maple sap — used for syrup — is rising a month ahead of time.
However, there is still concern about rising fuel costs and high prices for feed grain. Milk prices are also dropping from record high levels last year.
Also, the mild winter is not all good news. Much of the southern part of the United States is in a long-term drought, Wegner-Hohensee pointed out. “We have not had that much snow this year and, with that drought being to the south of us, there is concern that it might come up this way,” she said.
Since 2009, a feature of the Rural Life Days has been the Rural Life Career Scholarships funded through the collections at these annual spring Masses. The scholarships are awarded to local students, nominated by their parishes, who are focusing on careers in agriculture. This past year, three scholarships were awarded by the diocesan Rural Life Board. They went to:
- Krystal Van De Hey from St. Clare Parish, Wrightstown;
- Brock Hoffman from St. Francis Solanus Parish, Gresham; and
- Nicholas Colle from St. Mary in Luxemburg.
Tickets for the Rural Life Day dinners must be purchased in advance and are $7.50. Call the two parishes directly to order: St. Clare at (920) 864-2550; St. John at (715) 623-2040. Dinner tickets will not be sold at the door. No tickets are needed to attend either Mass.