During the same week in September, Catholic Rural Life took part in two different Rural Life Celebrations. I attended a Rural Life Mass in the Diocese of LaCrosse, and Peg Louiselle, our Director of Development, attended a Rural Life Celebration in Maine. The events themselves were different, and our perspectives were different as well: I have never attended a Rural Life Celebration, and Peg has attended many. We thought it would be interesting to share some highlights from our experiences.
Diocese of LaCrosse Rural Life Mass and Celebration
A Day-long Celebration in Hatley, Wisconsin
The Diocese of LaCrosse Rural Life Mass has been going on for years–a festive celebration of food, farming, blessings and Mass at a different rural location every summer. I had never been to a Rural Life Celebration before, so I was really excited to attend this one.
When I first drove into the farm, I was amazed at how many cars were already there. When I walked over to the large building that housed the Mass, I was struck with such a sense of community. I felt welcome and embraced right away.
Most Reverend William Callahan, Bishop of the Diocese of LaCrosse, concelebrated Mass, and I could tell by his homily that he loves the people of his mostly rural diocese and has a deep understanding of the challenges, joys and beauty of their rural life. Before he was ordained a bishop, he was a priest for the Archdiocese of Chicago–and he makes jokes about his first assignment in a rural parish. The city boy survived! After the Mass, the bishop blessed the land, livestock, farm equipment and food. It was so beautiful to see the large group of priests and deacons all dressed in crisp white, surrounding the bishop and praying with him. This was a beautiful contrast against the browns and greens of the farm. It was striking to me to see the brotherhood of priests who no doubt live some distance apart, each at their own rural parish, respectively.
Later, when we all went to another large building to eat lunch, I got a chance to talk to a lot of the people. Everyone was so happy to be there, and I got a warm sense of communion and camaraderie. All ages were represented, and I was surprised to see so many children. This gives me great hope for the future of rural–if we can keep celebrating this life with the children, we can only hope that they see the beauty in it for themselves.
The most memorable moment for me was during the award ceremony. The host of the celebration made a speech–and one of his heartfelt comments struck me: “I want to thank our Hispanic workers. Without them none of this would be possible. America doesn’t eat without Hispanic workers. Do you notice that there are not many of them here now? That’s because they are working!” I was so moved, that I wrote it down!
The most lasting impression from the day for me was community. I was moved by the way that the people came together–from far distances–to celebrate their rural life in Christ. Young and old, many heritages and nationalities, coming together as one people in the Church. I am grateful for the experience, and I can’t wait to go to my next Rural Life Mass!
Catholic Rural Life Family Festival
A Four-day Celebration of Rural Life Hosted by St. Joseph Parish in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay, Maine
I have had the privilege of attending several wonderful Rural Life Celebrations across the country since beginning my work with Catholic Rural Life. I was particularly excited to be invited to Maine last weekend, as I have never visited that state before. At the risk of inciting jealously, it was amazing! What was most inspiring was the quality of the expression and integration of community, faith, food and culture—all lived out with intentionality and love.
Being a multi-day festival afforded a great variety of offerings that included: demonstrations in making jam, cheese, pie, and bread, a Latin Mass, Irish music and dance, a rogation procession and blessing of the fields on a nearby farm. The centerpiece event was a 6-course farm to table dinner. Weaved into rural culture and rich liturgy were several opportunities to share about our work and engage in conversations with others about it.
As in most, if not all, Rural Life Celebrations, this was all made possible by a bishop and priest committed to celebrating and edifying rural Catholic culture. Another highlight was to meet in person (for the first time) several people who have been members of CRL previously and to welcome several new members to the CRL community.
–Morgan Smith is the Director of Communication and Peg Louiselle is the Director of Development for Catholic Rural Life.