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Farmers role to till and keep the garden of the world

Ray Mueller
Green Bay Catholic diocese bishop David Ricken reminded attendees at the diocese's annual Rural Life Days Mass and observance at Holy Family parish that farmers' role is to “till and keep the garden of the world”.

BRILLION – Forget the negatives, have gratitude, and “worry less,” Green Bay Catholic diocese bishop David Ricken implored attendees at the diocese's annual Rural Life Days Mass and observance at Holy Family parish.

Quoting Pope Francis, Ricken reminded farmers that their role in life is to “till and keep the garden of the world” and to recognize how agriculture addresses the challenges of human and economic development, disparity, and food security.

Whether a year's harvest proves to be great or not, look at the growth of seeds into productive plants “as a miracle” and “be grateful for the incredible abundance that you have” in comparison to many other people around the world, Ricken advised.

Attitude adjustment

Referring to his trip to the Dominican Republic and Haiti, where the diocese operates a mission parish, Ricken cited the “incredible poverty” and noted that many young children still don't have clothes. Yet the people exhibit joy and sing energetically when they attend Mass, he observed.

Similarly, Ricken urged the attendees at the Rural Life Days Mass to appreciate their own blessings. “There is no excuse to not step up to the plate,” he said. “Gratitude is the key to being happy. Forget the negatives.”

“Don't be on the worry bandwagon,” Ricken warned. “That's a waste of time, a lack of trust. God is with us, abundant harvest or not.”

Efficient or effective?

Within agriculture itself, Ricken cited the continuing trend to larger farms, wondering if this is leading to a losing of “the fundamental values of the family farm. Large farms may be more efficient but is this effective?”

“What does this do to the human person and families?” Ricken asked. “Who's is charge? God, not business, should be.” He doesn't question the use of technology to make work easier and praised farmers for the time they give and the commitment they have to their vocation.

On the other hand, Ricken referred to how a great number of people today are “out of touch” with the reality of farming, how the belief that “milk comes from the store” predominates, and how those facts create an obligation to “show people where food comes from. If there's a disconnect from nature, there's also a disconnect from God.”

A banner from the Isidore the Farmer parish, representing locations in Kewaunee and northern Manitowoc counties, was on display at the 2017 Rural Life Day celebration in Brillion.

Rural challenges

Within the United States, many of the approximately 60 million people classified as “rural residents” do not enjoy adequate living conditions, Ricken pointed out. Advocate with government to address those problems but also realize that Catholic dioceses are offering help, he indicated.

Referring to an observation by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, Ricken stated that “rural families can be the strongest in their practice of their faith.” But he noted that disruptions such as opioid abuse, suicide, and domestic violence are on the rise in rural communities.

Within families, the father needs to be “the spiritual leader of the household,” Ricken stated. “Step up. Take the lead.”

Parting advice

“Worry less, pray more, and do something good,” Ricken advised. “Don't waste time. Be generous in return for what you have. Don't just sit and think about getting things.”

When listening to a homily at a church service, think of how to build on it, Ricken suggested. He likened that to how the planting of a seed will lead to the harvesting of its fruit.

Take time away from television, the Internet, and social media, Ricken advised. “And thank God ahead of time while waiting for the answer to your prayer.”

Related activities

The Mass at which Bishop Ricken presided featured Old and New Testament readings pertaining to the land, livestock, food production, sowers and reapers, and harvesting. Songs selected for the Mass had the titles “Canticle of the Sun” and “We Come to the Feast.”

“America the Beautiful” was sung following a blessing of a wheelbarrow full of seeds and soil brought by Mass attendees and before the outdoor blessing of animals and machinery on a day which started with a morning snowfall in the local area and was followed by rain showers.

In addition to Rural Life Day observance here, a similar event was held at the St. Mary parish in Bear Creek two days earlier with the Most Rev. Robert Morneau, an area native, serving at the chief celebrant.

Persons wanting to view a videotape of the event can check the Holy Family Parish of Brillion website. Another innovation at the event here was the showing of videos taken on dairy farms of host committee members – Greg Bohman in 2011 and the Corey Schmidt family's Grand View Dairy Farm in 2014 – in conjunction with Calumet County's “Sundae on a Dairy Farm.”