GANADO, Texas — Catholic Rural Life ministry is nothing new, but it had gained a new energy in the past few years as new chapters of the organization emerge and more intentional outreach is provided to nurture the faith in rural vocations.
That outreach was exemplified as Bishop Brendan J. Cahill celebrated the Diocese of Victoria’s first “Blessing of Seed and Soil” Mass in February at BH Genetics in Ganado. The Mass was a seasonal complement to the first harvest Mass celebrated this past fall.
Not only was the outdoor Mass blessed with sunshine and mild temperatures, the business of rural life was evident all around — in the sights of the tilled up rows of dirt and tractors parked nearby and the sound of nearby crop dusters at work.
Cahill, the current board president of the national Catholic Rural Life organization, said during his homily that Catholic Rural Life was centered around, faith, community and care of creation. “What a particular joy for me to celebrate this Mass today,” he said as he prayed for families, farms and parishes.
He also stressed the importance being a blessing to others and blessing God with a grateful heart for providing what we need each day.
As part of the Feb. 1 celebration, the bishop extended his hands over the bags of seeds brought by people from all around the diocese and asked God’s blessing on them, then sprinkled holy water on the offering. It was a perfect symbol of how the Catholic Rural Life wants to ensure that faith is instilled in all parts of life.
Sherry Kainer, who coordinated the celebration, said, “I work for the chancery, but I’m also a farmer’s wife, so this is very near and dear to my heart.” She listed the many rural vocations in the diocese, including row crops of corn, milo, soybeans and cotton, cattle and cheese production, grapes and wineries, catfish farms and shrimping along the coast. “So we are a very rural community.”
The Diocese of Victoria, in June 2018, began the work of establishing the first Texas chapter of Catholic Rural Life, which is based in Minnesota. According to the national organization’s website, “Chapters of CRL are part of the national network of CRL members. Often using our resources, they work to promote, edify and celebrate the rich rural traditions of our faith in their local diocese and/or parishes.”
Cahill appointed Father Stephen Vacek as director and Deacon Larry Hoelscher as chairman of the local chapter.
“The bishop desired a young, energetic priest who was from a rural town with some experience of rural life. As a newly ordained priest whose parents own a hardware store in East Bernard, I fit the description,” Vacek told The Catholic Lighthouse, Victoria’s diocesan newspaper. “I remember saying I wanted to join the Diocese of Victoria because ‘I could see a combine drive down Main Street during the day.'”
Vacek and Hoelscher attended a national conference to prepare to serve the rural communities.
“It is an honor to serve the people and priests of the diocese in my role as director,” the priest said. “The goal of our chapter is to help our diocese realize that being Catholic is more than going to Mass. We bring our faith into the workplace.”
But Catholic Rural Life is not simply for farmers. As Vacek pointed out, “from seed to plate,” all humankind has a stake in what the workers and their land provide.
Jones is editor of The Catholic Lighthouse, newspaper of the Diocese of Victoria.
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