By Ken Bresnan, Parish Outreach Liaison for Catholic Charities
As soon as one steps foot on a farm, they feel welcome. And that was especially the case at the Rosmann Family Farm in Harlan, Iowa on Sunday afternoon.
I wasn’t out of my car for five seconds before the first person greeted me. I had arrived about 1:40 p.m. for mass which was to be celebrated by Bishop Pates as part of, "A Day in the Country: A Rural-Urban Eucharistic Celebration". The altar was set up in front of the house and the yard was ringed with bales of hay for seating. Under a canopy to the side of the altar there was a marvelous choir that was singing songs for the crowd as we arrived.
As we all know, one of the prime ingredients for a successful growing season is rain and the Good Lord, as we say, did shower His grace down upon us. It managed to drizzle or lightly rain the whole time. But, we are talking good, sturdy farm people here and it didn’t bother them a bit. As the hostess said, it was a warm rain. At one point I returned to the car for a blanket to throw over the bale I was going to sit on. That showed everyone that I was a true city boy. A nice, young, local guy came up and just flipped the bales over as they were dry on the bottom.
There is something about a mass celebrated outside that sheds just a shade-different light upon the liturgy and lets you experience it in a different way. All of the pastors from Shelby County were there with Father Dorton assisting Bishop Pates. Several families from the area presented symbolic gifts of their lives and parishes. Bishop Pates announced that the sermon and comments at the end of mass by the director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference would be in the shed after mass where refreshments would also be served. I do believe that we were all grateful to hear that.
After mass, we all fit into a large, large shed that was one of numerous out-buildings. Bishop Pates talked about conversations he has had with farmers in the Diocese and how their goal is to leave the land, their land, in better shape than it was when they got it. I couldn’t help but marvel about their basic understanding of our roles; i.e. to leave the people of God here on earth in better shape than it was before we came.
As always, when I am on a farm, I sense the basics of life as soil, water and food come together. For a city boy, it is tremendously refreshing.
Following mass, I enjoyed visiting with several of the attendees while eating ice cream (to die for) and a humongous assortment of homemade cookies (yes, I had several so I wouldn't offend anyone). In the conversations, I got some sense of what was changing for the farmers, and some of the new challenges that they will be facing. (Recommended reading on this topic: Deacon Mike Manno's column in the September issue of the Catholic Mirror, "Rural America and the Church." http://www.dmdiocese.org/the-catholic-mirror.cfm)
A great day. A wet day, but a great day in rural Iowa.
See more photos on the Diocese of Des Moines Facebook page.
"A Day in the Country: A Rural-Urban Eucharistic Celebration" was organized through the Rural Life initiative, part of Catholic Charities Social Justice Consortium.