Joan Pendergast, pastoral associate at St. Clare Parish, was pleased with the turnout. “We are primarily a rural community and it’s important to connect our faith with our daily lives on the land both as producers and consumers of food.”
In his homily, Bishop Morneau drew upon poetry, among other things, as he developed the connection between labor and faith. He concluded Mass with the Litany of St. Isidore, the patron saint of farmers, before heading outside to bless the large farm equipment parked in the school’s parking lot. School children from St. Clare hovered around the bishop as he sprinkled holy water on the farm machinery and several farm animals.
Amy Van De Hey, 13, brought her rabbit, Chip, for a blessing. Van De Hey is part of dying breed. She is one of the last children of farming families at St. Clare. She is not sure what she wants to be when she gets older. However she is very thankful for growing up milking cows and tending to chickens on her family’s dairy farm.
“It has been a really good experience. It teaches you responsibility as you get to work with the animals all the time and it’s really, really fun,” she told The Compass.
Fr. Bill Rickert, a retired priest, was one of several priests who concelebrated the Mass with Bishop Morneau. He, too, knows the value of a family farm. A native son of the Hollandtown, Wis., area, his family raised around 30 dairy cows.
“We didn’t have any John Deere tractors back then,” said the priest. “We did it all by hand with the help of our three horses.”
Sr. Caroline Sullivan from the Bridge Between Retreat Center in Denmark arrived with her seed packs literally pinned to her overalls. She noted the spiritual connection between the earth and the fertile ground of our hearts.
“I brought my seeds because the seeds have been planted in my soul as well as in the soil of the earth,” she noted. “By being here it helps people to realize that we have to grow the soil as well as the interior garden of our heart.”
Sr. Caroline hopes for a good gardening season this year at the retreat house. Due to a mild winter and warm March some of that goodness has already sprung.
“We have just gathered 20 pounds of fresh spinach and a half a pound of mixed greens,” she added. “In the gardening world, every year has the potential to be great.”