Tractors, drivers get blessed at St. Mary Church in Wilton

Barb Arland-Fye
David Meyer of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, receives a blessing for himself and his Oliver Super 55 1956 tractor from Deacon Dan Freeman in the parking lot of St. Mary Church in Wilton.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

WILTON — Tractors of different sizes, colors and eras, pulled into St. Mary Catholic Church’s parking lot, greeted by parishioners and by three deacons dressed in white albs and green stoles eager to bless the vehicles and their drivers.

By early afternoon June 14, as many as 450 tractors and their drivers, along with family members and other spectators, had passed through the parish parking lot that day for Tractorcade 2022. Deacon Dan Freeman, parish life coordinator for St. Mary, recruited Deacons Jeff Schuetzle and Terry Starns to assist him with the blessings, which tractor drivers received with enthusiasm.

“Awesome! Thank you! I never had my tractor blessed,” David Meyer of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, said after Deacon Freeman prayed over Meyer and his green Oliver Super 55 1956 tractor and sprinkled both with holy water. “That’s what is great about Iowa, small-town hospitality … and super people.”


“This was a real surprise,” said Dan Keegan of West Palm Beach, Florida, after the blessing of his 1951 John Deere tractor, himself and brother-in-law Ron Kohl of San Antonio, Texas. “Hopefully it will make our tractor run better,” Keegan joked. Fathers and sons, a mother and daughter and other combinations of relatives — like Keegan and his brother-in-law — participated in WMT Great Eastern Iowa Tractorcade 2022.

WMT News Radio 600 AM of Cedar Rapids organizes the annual event, choosing a route based on the county fairgrounds that hosts it. This year, Muscatine County Fairgrounds had the honor. Months ago, WMT asked the Wilton parish to serve as a “pit stop” on day two of the three-day event.

“The facility was great and the people were receptive from the very beginning. It was one of the best pit stops we’ve had in a long time,” said Matt Kenney, event manager for iHeart Media, which owns WMT. In comments that Tractorcade received about the event, “some people took the time to mention Wilton and the church and the people.” The blessing of tractors and drivers was a first for the event. Deacon Freeman “asked us if it would be OK,” said Kenney, who responded, “‘Why would anyone say no?’”

Most tractor drivers said yes to the deacons’ offering of a blessing, but a few declined, Deacon Freeman said. “I had a couple of people say, ‘I’m not Catholic.’” He assured them that blessings are ecumenical. “Half of the people we blessed made the sign of the cross. That tells me either they were Catholic or familiar with a blessing and the sign of the cross.”

Barb Arland-Fye
Volunteers prepare food for Tractorcade 2022 inside the parish hall of St. Mary Parish in Wilton June 14.

“I feel that any time we can offer a blessing to anyone we are doing the work of the Church,” said Deacon Starns of St. Andrew Parish in Blue Grass. “When a person is willing to accept a blessing, they are asking the Holy Spirit to indwell them and they will become closer to God.”

“Overall, it was a positive experience and everyone was friendly and appreciative,” he continued. “They appreciated the refreshments and restroom breaks but also the blessings! One lady said that she has done this Tractorcade for 21 years and it is the first time they were offered a blessing. Most people would say, ‘Sure, I need all the blessings I can get with getting this old tractor home!’”

“Dan’s idea sounded like a fun adventure and I was up for a road trip,” said Deacon Schuetzle of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton. “As his brother deacon, I wanted to support him in this endeavor. Little did I know that it would so much fun. The people of Wilton were very welcoming and the oatmeal raisin cookies were phenomenal.”

Inside the parish hall, parishioners Jean Semsch and Colleen Nichols led a group of around 30 volunteers to provide hospitality. Home-baked treats including scones, muffins, bars and cookies filled the serving tables, along with grapes and bunches of bananas. Parishioner Chad Rockrow coordinated the outdoor logistics. Youths, mostly students in the Confirmation class of Dennis Sass, assisted as needed, especially in guiding guests to the restrooms.

After the last tractor left the parish parking lot, parishioners took the leftover goodies to an assisted living residence in Wilton and a couple of nursing homes and an activity center in Muscatine.

Deacon Freeman said his hope for the event was to “get people together and form community, to be the body of Christ outside of Mass. Too many times we look at evangelization as, ‘I have to go out there, knock on a door and speak.’ Proclaiming the Gospel with your actions is evangelizing.”

He added, “One of the things we’re doing in the diaconal community is looking at ways to care for one another as deacons, to grow the diaconate and also help the bishop evangelize. That’s why we put on the albs and stoles when we did the blessings. We need to recognize God’s presence in our creation and in and with us day to day.”

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