By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
WEST POINT — Perfect weather and a bountiful harvest set the scene for the third Catholic Rural Life Mass on the Farm in the Davenport Diocese, celebrated Oct. 22 on the Ron and Suzanne Overberg farm northwest of Fort Madison.
The sunny day with a mild breeze contrasted with the weather conditions of the previous Catholic Rural Life Masses. Rain soaked the first Mass last October on the Krogmeier farm and wind buffeted the second Mass this past April on the Pieper farm. “I think God might have been testing our perseverance,” joked Father Dan Dorau, pastor of the four collaborating parishes that celebrate the Catholic Rural Life Mass. This time, “It was a beautiful day. The only flaw: I forgot some (electronic) equipment.”
So, Deacon Kent Ferris held the microphone for Father Dorau throughout Mass and the gathering sang hymns acapella. The pastor estimated the crowd at about 70 adults and children from the parishes he serves: St. Boniface Parish-Farmington, St. James the Less Parish-St. Paul, St. John Parish-Houghton and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish-West Point.
The “She Shed,” Suzanne Overberg’s cozy getaway on the farm served as the sanctuary. The congregation sat on folding chairs facing the mobile altar, positioned in front of one of the shed’s open sides.
“All of the farmers are very, very happy. They are reporting great yields,” said Father Dorau. That good news reinforced his homily, based on the Sunday Gospel (give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God), to illustrate the source of a bountiful life.
“The IRS tells us what belongs to Caesar, that is, the government, but what belongs to God? The Jewish people had elaborate rules about tithing and today we call it stewardship, contributing to the well-being of the Church. But is that all Jesus meant? What belongs to God? That is our question and challenge today. The answer is — everything!” Father Dorau told the congregation.
“More important than our money is our heart and soul. All that we have, all that we are is a gift from God, given to us with the directive to give it back in exchange for eternal happiness and joy. One of the greatest gifts God has given us is freedom — freedom to choose him, or not; freedom to love him, or not; freedom to give ourselves to him, or not. So often, this freedom gets in the way, and our pride and selfishness keep us from giving back to God what belongs to God.”
“Today, we give back to God a token of the bountiful harvest he has given us. We gather to give back in the form of thanksgiving and praise what is always his due. He gives us the laws of science that help us to understand the crops and to build machines that make farming possible. He gives us our health that enables us to work the land. He gives us everything out of love and wants only for us to love him in return.”
“God is the ultimate provider,” said dairy farmer Shannon Wellman, who brought her three young children — Levi, 6, Evelyn, 3 and Wren, 1 — to their second Catholic Rural Life Mass. Her husband, Gunnar, wasn’t able to attend this time.
“With farming, I find God a lot in nature,” Shannon said. For her kids, the outdoors is their playground. “My first-grader seemed to connect with the Mass being held outside. We took our pumpkins up during the offertory so he got to contribute to the Mass.”
Shannon farms with her parents Ron and Colleen Krogmeier, who hosted the first Catholic Rural Life Mass on their Hinterland Dairy Farm near Donnellson last fall. As Shannon and the kids drove to the Overberg farm for Mass this fall, they saw a tractor parked in the median on the highway near the farm with a sign advertising the Mass. That built on the family’s excitement, she said.
“I loved it,” Liz Linnenbrink said of her first Catholic Rural Life Mass. She was unable to attend the previous Masses at which her husband, Deacon Mike Linnenbrink, served. This time, he missed the Mass because of illness.
The Linnenbrinks and Overbergs have been friends for 40 years, Liz said. “Our kids grew up together and their oldest daughter was our babysitter.” Celebrating Mass at the She Shed, which Ron built with wood recycled from his grandparents’ farmhouse, added to the liturgy’s specialness for Liz.
Being outdoors for Mass evoked a different kind of feeling as well. “We were outside surrounded by God’s beauty,” Liz said. “This is how I would love a day in heaven to feel like.”