Farmers asked to be
good stewards of creation
Farmers have the responsibility of being good stewards of the gifts of God's creation, Bishop David Ricken told attendees at the Catholic diocese's annual Rural Life Day observance at St. Edward parish north of Appleton.
A similar event was held at Neva in Langlade County the previous day.
"God's property is on loan to us. You're cultivating that gift literally," Ricken stated in the homily at the day's Mass.
He described the growing of seeds into productive crops and foods as "a miracle" that's too often taken for granted. The wonder of a green sprout is a miracle, he suggested.
When he first came to Green Bay as bishop, Ricken said, "I could not believe the black rich soil here" - quite a contrast to the soils on the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountain regions where he grew up and had previously served in the church ministry.
"I hope we never lose the values of the family farmer," Ricken declared. He wished that humans would not put God out of their activities but acknowledged "that is happening in our culture."
Regarding agriculture, Ricken noted that very large farm operations are a major change on the rural landscape but he does not consider them to be unacceptable as such.
What's important, he indicated, is keeping a balance that protects the natural resources and respects the land.
Those are not easy decisions, Ricken observed. He called for adherence to the principles, teachings, and caring values of the church.
Farming can sustain and build family life, Ricken added. "Farming is an exercising of the virtue of hope."
Another key virtue is humility, Ricken continued. He said the word has the same root as humus, which means earth. "A humble person is earthy in the good sense of the word," Ricken remarked.
Just as farmers have a direct connection with the earth, Ricken urged them to "never lose the connection to real people. Connect the dots. You need to do it."
Rather than thinking in terms of being in a silo or a pigeonhole, make connections, Ricken advised. One of the failures of doing so is the common belief among children that "milk comes from the store" and that food in general originates in a box, he stated.
In looking around the church here, Ricken cited the four panels of three stained glass windows each depicting scenes for all four seasons of the year. He also recognized retired priest Bill Rickert, who was attending his 68th consecutive Rural Life Day.
The worship service and related activities were held on the first full day of spring as the surrounding landscape was still covered with snow and even daytime temperatures remained below freezing.
Words in the song just preceding the Mass invited everyone to "come with me to the fields" where "your shoes will wear thin" and "your arms may grow weary."
The fruits of the earth, sowing seeds, harvest abundance, and thanksgiving for those gifts were also themes in the day's readings and in hymns titled For the Beauty of the Earth, Seeds Scattered and Sown, You Satisfy the Hungry Heart, and Canticle of the Sun.
Bishop Ricken blessed packages of seeds and soil brought to the Mass by attendees. In an outside ceremony on the clear and cold day, he offered prayers and sprinkled holy water on animals and farm equipment brought to the event by members of St. Edward's parish.