A farmer’s life in time of drought: faith, gratitude and prayer
By Julie Filby
NATIONAL CATHOLIC RURAL LIFE CONFERENCE
Online: www.ncrlc.com (sign up for free weekly e-bulletins)
Membership benefits: workshops, conferences, Catholic Rural Life magazine, faith-based study guides
Membership levels: $50 individual, $100 parish, $250 organization
BY THE NUMBERS
Number of Denver Archdiocese Catholics attending rural parishes: 16,000+
Number of people nationwide living in rural areas: 55 million
Number of farms in U.S.: 2.2 million
Sources: National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Archdiocese of Denver
The faith and livelihood of thousands of people living in rural areas of northern Colorado is entwined with the land. Farmers express gratitude to God for the fruits the land yields, and when challenges impact it, such as this year’s drought, they turn to God for help.
“A farmer’s life, at least in our Catholic community, is based on prayer,” said Betty Sauter, a member of the farming community on the Eastern Plains and parish secretary at Sacred Heart Church in Roggen. “We know that everything we get comes from God; we are very dependent on the weather and things like that.”
All counties in the Denver Archdiocese remain at “severe” or “extreme” levels of drought, according to Aug. 28 data from the National Integrated Drought Information System. The conditions have caused very low streamflows and reduced water supplies; poor range, pasture and dryland crop conditions; and wildfires.
Two weeks ago, the tri-parish community of Sacred Heart, Holy Family in Keenesburg and Our Lady of Lourdes in Wiggins—situated about 60 miles northeast of Denver—had a special day of prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. They invited people to come to the church in Roggen and spend “quiet time with the Lord and pray for much needed rain to end the drought that is hurting so many.” They finished the day with Mass.
Members of the congregation regularly add spontaneous prayers for rain during the prayers of the faithful at daily Mass. And every year, nine weeks before the May 15 feast of St. Isidore, the patron of farmers, parishioners pray a novena to the saint asking for blessings on the coming farm season (see www.ncrlc.com for the novena).
It is important for others to join farmers in prayer as well, and recognize the challenges they experience.
“We recognize the importance of rural life because we’re all dependent on food,” James Ennis, executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, told the Denver Catholic Register in a phone interview from his Des Moines office. “Because food is so important to us … we should always recognize and be thankful for fertile land and farmers who have to depend on the elements so much.
“We take it for granted that our food system is a well-oiled machine, but we’re not machines.”
Colorado is a large producer of wheat and other small grains, as well as a major livestock-producing state. Ennis indicated corn is the primary crop that has suffered during this year’s drought.
“We think of corn and other types of crop growers (during the drought),” he explained. “The impact is even more significantly felt at the feed level, for those feeding cattle and other livestock, poultry and hogs, a grain diet.”
Due to the drought the feed supply was lower, thus the prices increased. This, combined with burned up grasslands that could no longer be used to graze livestock, created a “real challenge” due to the excessive expense of feeding livestock.
“(Livestock producers) are forced to sell their cattle much earlier than anticipated at a lower price,” he said. “So it’s negatively impacting their bottom line.”
Many farmers have insurance on certain crops to protect against drought and other natural disasters, Ennis said, and state governments do their best to help farmers.
About 55 individuals and organizations in Colorado are members of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. The organization was initially formed in 1923 to address the religious education needs of people in rural areas; and over the years has expanded to include agricultural practices and environmental concerns as well.
“Our mission is to apply the teachings of Jesus Christ for the social, economic and spiritual development of rural America with responsibility for the care of God's creation,” said Ennis. “By providing spiritual, educational and advocacy assistance, NCRLC helps rural people shape their futures and lead lives of dignity.”
There are 2,200 members nationwide including bishops, priests, men and women religious, diocesan social ministry directors, parishes and individuals. Jennifer Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference based in Denver, was recently elected to the board of the NCRLC, as treasurer.
“She understands a lot of the challenges in rural Colorado, as well as on a federal level,” said Ennis. “Having her on the board helps us interact with the Catholic state conferences throughout the country… which is very helpful.”
Kraska agreed her experience with CCC is valuable in helping serve rural Catholics through the NCRLC.
“The CCC supports farmers and ranchers, at the federal and state level, by advocating for legislation that benefits those farmers and ranchers most in need,” she said.
The Church affirms and supports the agricultural sector and farming, and Ennis said the faithful “need to continue to remind people where their food comes from.”
For more information about the NCRLC visit www.ncrlc.com or call 515-270-2634. Membership in the organization includes a subscription to Catholic Rural Life magazine, faith-based study guides, as well as opportunities for workshops and conferences.
Prayer for Rain
Almighty God, we are in need of rain. We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky, what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is. To think that so much water can really fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear! We place our trust in You. We are sure that You know our needs. But You want us to ask you anyway, to show You that we know we are dependent on you. Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing Your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad. Amen.
Source: National Catholic Rural Life Conference-Rural Life Prayer Book