DYCKESVILLE — Gratitude and solidarity were two of the themes Bishop David Ricken proposed to farm families attending the annual Rural Life Day Mass April 4 at St. Louis Church.
The Rural Life Day celebration is an opportunity for Catholic farmers to gather in the spring and pray for a successful farming season and to give thanks for God’s bountiful blessings. Another celebration took place April 2 at Sacred Heart Church in Shawano.
Joining Bishop Ricken at the altar were Fr. Edward Looney, administrator of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish in Brussels and St. Peter and St. Hubert Parish in Lincoln/Rosiere; Fr. Ryan Starks, administrator of St. Therese Parish in Appleton; and Fr. Tony Birdsall. Also in attendance was Fr. John Van Deuren, priest celebrant at St. Louis Parish, and Pat Ratajczak, pastoral leader at St. Louis Parish.
In addition to celebration of the Eucharist, Bishop Ricken led the assembly in a Litany to St. Isidore, patron saint of farmers. The litany took place before the final prayer, followed by a blessing of seeds and plants, brought by parishioners and wheeled into the church on a utility wagon.
After Mass, Bishop Ricken led the assembly outdoors, where a blessing of farm animals and tractors took place. A lunch followed in the parish center and guest speaker, Leon Janssen, founder of Meadow Brook Farm Publishing, LLC, offered a presentation about sharing stories of rural life in Wisconsin.
In his homily, Bishop Ricken quoted from his recent column published in The Compass, “Standing in solidarity with our rural communities.” In it, he lamented the challenges farmers face today, including the closing of 700 dairy farms in Wisconsin in the past year.
The loss of small farms has led to anguish for families and rural communities, Bishop Ricken said. “In times of difficulty, we can also find hope in the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ,” he said, quoting his column.
Bishop Ricken explained that the diocese offers many ministries that can assist families in rural communities. “I have asked Catholic Charities to work to find ways to better reach out to our rural areas … to meet the needs of those among us,” he said.
“Those of you who need help, please reach out. There are people there to help you,” he said. “In losing something that has been a treasured gift for your family, there’s grief.”
Bishop Ricken said he knows from personal experience that it takes time to deal with the grief of losing a farm.
“We had this for my grandparents’ farm, which my dad bought from them and my brother bought from my dad, and we had to let go of that a few years ago,” he said. “That was very hard for our family to let go of our farm in southern Colorado.”
While such a loss is not easy, he added, “there comes a time in life when there are transitions.”
“As you know, agribusiness is becoming more and more predominant, which means that a lot of us have to yield over what we have, and we hope and pray that it’s for something better,” said Bishop Ricken. “At any rate, much of this is not in our hands, but what is in our hands is to be very grateful for all the ways that God has blessed us, not just in the past but in the present.”
He said that U.S. farmers have been successful in feeding the world “through your hard work and God’s blessing, through ingenuity and creativity, and good business management.”
“But all of those are gifts,” he added. “Gifts that people like you have responded to and for that I am very grateful.”
VIEW MORE PHOTOS: To view additional photos from the Rural Life Day Mass, visit our Flickr page.