“Care for the earth is a holy thing,” noted Bishop William P. Callahan at St. Joseph parish in Menomonie on October 7 during the Mass at the 36th annual Diocese of La Crosse Rural Life Day celebration.
The presence of the bishop was noteworthy. It was his first public engagement since major heart surgery in July and lingering complication from nerve damage. As bishop of one of the most rural Diocese in the country, his presence at this event was not coincidence. “This is very important. I look forward to this day (each year),” noted the bishop.
The main purpose of the event is to celebrate rural living, the good things that God has provided and honor individuals who have made significant contributions. The oldest award is the “Strangers and Guests Award” which recognizes an outstanding farm family. The name of the award is from the bible noting that we are simply strangers and guests on the land we “own.”
This year’s winner was the Kris and Becky Sabelko family. “They emulate what is good,” noted Pam Baier in her nomination. “They are a true example of a faith-filled family,” she continued. In his acceptance, Kris deflected the praise showered on his family as simply “doing the right thing.”
The tone of humility was a common thread among the other twelve award recipients as well, possibly because from working the land, they have come to see themselves as “strangers and guests” given the privilege to participate in a “holy thing.”