SHAWANO — Bishop David Ricken is accustomed to blessing parishioners at Catholic churches throughout the Diocese of Green Bay.
But during a 2018 Rural Life Days’ Mass at Sacred Heart Church, he also took time to bless seeds, soil, milk, tractors, calves and a rooster, among other animals.
The Rural Life Days’ Mass was designed to recognize the hard work, dedication and stewardship of those who care for the land and to pray for a fruitful and safe farming season.
Ricken, who comes from a family of farmers and ranchers, said the activities that day emphasize “the value of the people in our rural parishes and celebrate the fruits of their labor and faith.” He added that the farm-related items and animals he blessed “are all vital parts of a prosperous agricultural year.”
Addressing students from Sacred Heart Catholic School who were in attendance, Ricken said, “One of the things the kids know for sure is that milk doesn’t just come in a carton at a grocery store. Milk comes from natural means, and this is all a very complex and beautiful gift that God has provided for us.”
Inside Sacred Heart Church, Ricken celebrated a Mass that included a blessing of a St. Isidore the Farmer statue, as well as two wheelbarrows filled with seeds, soil, milk and other agricultural products.
Songs performed at Mass included “For the Fruits of This Creation,” “Seed Scattered and Sown,” “Bread of Life” and “For the Beauty of the Earth.”
As part of the blessing of seeds and soil, the Mass cited James 5:7-8, which states in part, “See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil. He looks forward to it patiently while the soil receives the winter and spring rains.”
Ricken concluded Mass by leading a procession to the church parking lot, where he blessed a rooster and calves from nearby farms.
“Bless these animals and all creatures that they may serve our needs and that Your bounty in the resources of this life may move us to seek more confidently the goal of eternal life,” the blessing of animals said, in part.
In addition, Ricken blessed a pair of John Deere tractors. Ricken’s blessing of machinery stated, in part, “Grant that their hard work and careful use of these machines may contribute to the perfecting of Your creation and provide a decent life for themselves and their families.”
One parked tractor was driven by Carl Montoure, whose wife, Holly, teaches second grade at Sacred Heart School. The other tractor, which came down a side street and momentarily stopped for the blessing, was driven by Chuck Kugel.
Kugel’s wife, Mary Lou, is a parishioner who helped coordinate the event. They are retired farmers.
“It was really nice to see so many people supporting the Rural Life Days’ Mass,” Mary Lou said. “It’s the first time our church has hosted this event for as long as I’ve been here, so it was very special for us.”
The day’s activities continued with lunch and a presentation by featured speaker Pam Jahnke of the Farm Report.
The Rev. Tom Farrell said of Rural Life Days, “We need to thank God for the blessings we have in our beautiful rural land and for the farmers who always work so diligently to provide for those around them. They are good shepherds to all of us. Let us always remember to keep them in our prayers.”