Every day before school, Matt Herzog woke up at 5 a.m. and did his chores on his family’s farm in rural Freeport, which included managing a dairy herd owned by his father.
Herzog, 18, graduated from Upsala High School in the spring, but he still gets up early for chores and looks forward to taking over the farm his great-grandfather bought in 1938.
He loves the variety his vocation as a farmer offers — milking cows, feeding pigs, fixing things and doing field work as needed. The family grows corn, beans, oats and alfalfa.
“The best thing about farming is being able to do everything,” Herzog said. “One day you could be a plumber, the next day you could be working construction. You pretty much do it all.”
As a former football player, Herzog isn’t afraid of tackling new jobs — he’s had a lot of role models, learning many of his skills from watching other people, namely, his dad, and by teaching himself. So when his pastor, Father Jeremy Theis at St. Francis Church in St. Francis, asked him to help start a youth group, he jumped right in.
“Matt is part of a good crop of seniors who really took the lead on getting the youth group off the ground,” Father Theis said. “He is patient, committed and laid back but not afraid to go after what he believes in.”
The youth group traveled to the National Catholic Youth Conference in Indianapolis in the fall of 2017 and has come together almost every weekend for activities like game nights, Bible studies and searching for “cross rocks,” a staurolite formation that resembles a cross, at Blanchard Dam near Royalton.
Although the youth group is still in its early stages, about 15 youth from grades 9-12 have participated. Herzog said he hopes to stay involved with the group as a youth leader.
Herzog also has been an altar server, has helped with the parish bazaar and occasionally lectors. Father Theis said Herzog exhibits respect for the land and for his community.
“You can tell that, like farming, his faith and his family are important to him,” said Father Theis, who nominated Herzog for The Visitor’s Youth and Young Adult award. He is the August winner.
Herzog has two older sisters, an older brother and a younger brother.
“We say a lot of prayers when things go wrong, that’s for sure. I pray a lot when I’m in the tractor or when I have downtime,” Herzog said.
“We are a farming family so we go to church every Sunday. We don’t miss. We pray before and after meals. ‘Pray together, stay together,’” he said. “We grew up pretty close as a family because you have to work with each other, or else it won’t work.”
The message Herzog continues to spread is to “stay true to yourself.”
“Don’t let other people tell you different,” he said. “Try to stay faithful, say your prayers, go to church, be yourself and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.”
More about Matt
Current parish: St. Francis of Assisi, St. Francis
Occupation: Farm and some construction
Book on your bedside: The Bible
Movie you could watch over and over: “Boss Baby”
Saint who inspires you: St. Joseph
Favorite app: none
Prayer you love: Guardian Angel
In your spare time, you can be found: Building wood projects or just enjoying the outdoors
A pizza isn’t perfect unless it has: Bacon
If you could be a superhero or cartoon character, you would be: The Roadrunner
Favorite Bible verse or story: Isaiah 40:31
You couldn’t drive by which restaurant without stopping: Dairy Queen
Your favorite thing about being Catholic is: Being able to be forgiven each and every day
Let your voice be heard
Q: What is one accomplishment you are most proud of?
A: Being a successful football player
Q: What is one gift you think you bring to the church?
Q: What is one gift the church could give you?
Q: If you had the opportunity to talk with Pope Francis, what would you tell him?
A: I am proud of how he keeps his faith strong and stays true to his faith in today’s crazy world.
“Try to stay faithful, say your prayers, go to church, be yourself and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not good enough.”