Joe Towalski: Let’s show support for farmers and rural communities

August is the usual month when the Diocese of St. Cloud honors rural communities, farmers and the care they provide for creation through careful stewardship of the land.

By Joe Towalski

Last year’s Rural Life Celebration, however, was canceled because of the coronavirus, and the pandemic short-circuited the planning for a large-scale event this year as well. Thankfully, the diocese was still able to move forward with its annual Catholic Century Farm Awards for families who have nurtured the same land for 100 years or more. Bishop Donald Kettler celebrated a special Mass Aug. 1 for about 20 families receiving this honor (see list of families below).

The work of these and other family farmers to put food on our tables is more than a job, it’s a vocation. Along with the joys, farmers often face serious challenges to their livelihoods, including economic downturns and extreme weather, such as the drought much of our area is experiencing this summer. Rural communities support a way of life that benefits our diocese, our world and our Church. With this in mind, the Catholic Charities Office of Social Concerns encourages all of us in the diocese to celebrate agriculture and rural life through prayer and financial support.

One prayer option is a novena in honor of the patron saint of farmers: St. Isidore — a devout man who lived in Spain during the 12th century and worked the same fields all his life. While the novena is often prayed around the time of St. Isidore’s feast day in May, Catholic Rural Life — a St. Paul-based organization that promotes and supports rural communities — says another appropriate time is from Aug. 7-15, ending on the Solemnity of the Assumption. It’s a Catholic tradition to bless herbs and flowers on this feast day, which coincides with the first fruits of the harvest.

Mike Felling of Sauk Centre receives a Century Farm Award from Bishop Donald Kettler during Catholic Charities’ Catholic Century Farm Award Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in New Munich Aug. 1. The Felling farm, established in 1856, was one of 20 honored during the Mass and was the oldest farm represented. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

You can access the novena on the CRL’s website: Other resources on the page include a calendar of blessings and prayers for rural families.

The Catholic Charities Office of Social Concerns also suggests that parishes consider celebrating a Mass on a local farm, blessing farm sites and equipment, or taking up a special collection to benefit the Rural Life Fund. The fund, a program of Catholic Charities in collaboration with the diocese, offers small emergency funds for rural individuals and families facing financial hardship. To learn more about the fund, contact the Office of Social Concerns at or 320-229-6020.

“They sowed fields and planted vineyards, and brought in an abundant harvest,” we are told in Psalm 107. As we enter the latter part of summer and look ahead to the fall, let’s give thanks for all those who till the land, tend to crops and livestock, and produce the nutritious and healthy food on which we all depend.

Joe Towalski is the editor of The Central Minnesota Catholic and director of communications and development for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

Top photo: Bishop Kettler gives the final blessing after the Century Farm Award Mass. The awards honor Catholic families who have farmed and nurtured the same land for 100 years or more. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

2021 Catholic Century Farm Awards

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud is honoring Catholic families who have farmed and nurtured the same land for 100 years or more. The families who received this distinction in 2021 were recognized Aug. 1 during a Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish in New Munich; each family received a certificate and award for their home.

Bergquist Family Farm, Parkers Prairie, 1871
Eltgroth Family Farm, Sauk Centre, 1919
Felling Century Farm, Belgrade, 1856
Kroska Family Farm, Foley, 1914
Meyer Family Farm, Melrose, 1909
Sobania Family Farm, Rice, 1911
Zabinski Family Farm, Waite Park, 1881
Boser Dairy Farm, Pierz, 1919
Borgerding Family Farm, Freeport, 1870
Bruemmer Family Farm, Albany, 1863
Herman John Meier Farm, Melrose, 1858
Douglas and Jane Popp Family Farm, Royalton, 1882
Faber Family Farm, Watkins, 1866
Primus Family Farm, Melrose, 1893
Ritter Dairy, Avon, 1879
Schwintek Family Farm, Little Falls, 1920
Loesch Vossen Century Farm, Watkins, 1887
Nathe Family Farm, Melrose, 1868
Waldorf Family Farm, Belgrade, 1884
Donnay Family Farm, Watkins, 1921

Author: Joe Towalski

Joe Towalski is the editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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