Call to cultivate community
Rural Life Days explore contemporary, traditional values of farm life
By Joanne Flemming
CHILTON - Farm families in the Green Bay Diocese on Rural Life
Days - April 3 and 4 at Gresham and Chilton - looked at their
vocation as both a traditional and a contemporary way of life.
Sr. Geraldine Hoye, one of two Dominican sisters who spoke at the
observances, told the 300 people at the Rural Life dinner at St.
Mary Church in Chilton that farming "is a contemporary way of
living that cares for the land, that cares for the community,
that cares for the faith.... (It) has the power to integrate
values that are dynamic in today's living."
She added that "there are many people who would not be able to do
what you do."
Half of America's parishes are in rural areas and small towns,
said Sr. Hoye. She and Sr. Georgia Acker, the other speaker,
began working together in rural parishes in Mississippi.
Because less than 2% of Mississippi is Catholic, Sr. Acker said,
its rural parishes are often isolated with as few as 12 members,
no professional staff and monthly Mass.
In 1999, the two women started Dominican Pathfinder Ministries
for rural parishes, based in Bowling Green, Ky., to work among
tobacco farmers in one Tennessee and two Kentucky dioceses.
Sr. Hoye said each parish they work with "has a culture and
history that is very rich and life-giving ... because of the
people who make up those parishes."
She and Sr. Acker said the parishioners were like "extended
family. They knew the pastor.... They knew one another. They were
very proud of their past, but also had a vision of what would
happen in the future.
"Much of who we are and much of what we become depends on how we
look at our own faith journey.... We are all on this journey,"
Sr. Hoye said. "Along the way, some run into real difficult
times. We are all looking for a place where we can be who we are,
where people will understand, where people will come together.
That's what community means."
Sr. Acker said the Christian heritage is about relationships with
God, family, friends, community, parish, state, nation, and
"As Christians, we know that all creation belongs only to God. As
humans, we are stewards of God's creation. As stewards, we always
strive to live in right relationships with God and all creation,"
That means following God's precepts - living peacefully and
acting with justice and mercy, Sr. Acker said.
However, she added, relationships today "are out of whack" and
the "pursuit of greed" is one reason.
Other reasons, said Sr. Hoye, are "anything in our lives that
keeps us from being steadfast and almost passionate in our
efforts to bring about peace and healing and reconciliation
within ourselves and with others."
This is a time "to look into our own hearts ... at things we need
to change," she said.
Sr. Hoye offered several suggestions for making those changes:
-- Love God more than you fear hell.
-- Make major decisions in a cemetery.
-- When no one is watching you, live as if someone is.
-- Never outgrow your love of sunsets.
-- When you can't take God's hand, trust his heart.
-- The Book of Life is written in chapters. Be sure you know what
page you are on.
-- Live your liturgy.
Bp. Robert Banks presided at the Rural Life Mass in Gresham and
Auxiliary Bp. Robert Morneau presided at the Chilton Mass. They
also blessed seeds, animals and machinery.
During his homily, Bp. Morneau listed the four hallmarks of a
good steward - receiving God's gifts gratefully, nurturing God's
gifts responsibly, sharing those gifts justly and charitably and
returning those gifts abundantly.