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Harvesting the concerns of Catholic farmers Print
Guest column
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008 -- 3:00 PM

Our diocesan Rural Life Office serves to support communities of all sizes as consumers of a constant, safe and affordable food supply, with focused emphasis in supporting the farmers and rural communities who plant, grow, and harvest the crops that feed us.

Guest Column

The Rural Life Office works to connect our rural parish communities to the greater diocesan Church as well as inform non-rural parish communities of the many challenges and justice issues facing those who labor to provide "our daily bread." The success and vitality of all our communities must be measured along-side the health and sustainability of our local farmers and rural families, rural parishes, and farming communities.

The issues and concerns of farming today are many, including the following, as outlined by our Bishops in the USCCB Pastoral Letter of 2004, "For I was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers":

  • How can hunger and the right of all to eat be satisfied?
  • How do we insure a safe, affordable, and sustainable food supply?
  • How can we stand up for the dignity of all farm workers and owners of small farms in our Diocese of Madison, our state, our nation, as well as the rest of the world?
  • How can we better protect and steward the resources of the earth, soil, water, and air that are the vital gifts of God's creation?
  • How can rural communities in our diocese, our state, our country, and around the world survive and thrive?

The Rural Life mission must include informing ourselves of the issues and concerns of the sustainability of our food supply as we must always be ever mindful of our role as stewards of the Earth's resources.

Our partnership with the National Catholic Rural life Conference (NCRLC), celebrating 85 years of service to all who grow and depend upon the gifts of the harvest, helps us to inform and to coordinate advocacy amongst our parishes as well as a variety of faith communities and agencies.

Our Catholic Diocese of Madison outreach relationship with the Wisconsin Conferences of the UCC and United Methodist Church allows us to offer assistance to struggling farm families through the "Harvest of Hope Fund," a Wisconsin Family Farm Crisis Fund. Advocacy and education combine in our partnership and support of Church Center for Land and People (CCLP) through opportunities to bring local farmers and their produce together with urban parishes in hosting indoor Winter Farmers Markets and Meals.

As workers in the Lord's vineyard and across his ample fields we must always center everything we endeavor to do in prayer. The Rural Life Office serves to promote opportunities for prayerful thanksgiving through coordinating liturgical moments in our diocese such as the annual Diocesan Rural Life Mass in celebration of the harvest, and the Feast Day celebration on May 15 of the patron saint of all farmers, St. Isidore. These are special times in our seasons of planting and harvest when we gather as Church to give glory to our Creator and thanks for all the gifts He sets upon our tables and places in our lives.

We should also never forget that the rural lands of our Diocese of Madison have been very productive in gathering young men and women to serve our Church through the vocations of the Priesthood and Religious Life. The majority of future religious vocations will continue to come from our farm families and rural parish communities. In support of all "vocations of our land" may we call upon the intercessions of St. Isidore:

"O God, who taught Adam the simple art of tilling the soil, and through Jesus Christ, the true vine, revealed yourself the husbandman of our souls, deign, we pray, through the merits of blessed Isidore, to instill into our hearts a horror of sin and a love of prayer, so that, working the soil in the sweat of our brow, we may enjoy eternal happiness in heaven, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen."

Tom Nelson is the Rural Life coordinator for the Diocese of Madison.