Father Nate Kuhn, Bishop William Patrick Callahan and Father William Dhein celebrate Rural Life Day with Dr. AnneMarie Elwing and family in Genoa.
“The earth has yielded its fruit, the Lord our God has blessed us.” (Ps 67) This was not only the responsorial psalm for the Rural Life Day Mass on the farm but also the theme that resonated through the celebration.
September 2018 will long be remembered for the devastating flooding in the Coulee Region. On yet another rainy day, Bishop William Patrick Callahan gathered in this same area southwest of Genoa with several hundred undeterred faithful to celebrate the 38th annual Rural Life Day Mass. It was hosted on the Wall-Stone Holsteins farm, owned and operated by the Dr. AnneMarie Elwing, her husband, Kevin, and their sons, Emil and William Walleser.
In his homily, the Bishop drew from the special prayer for the 150th Diocesan anniversary to call to mind that “we thank (God) for the gifts you have given to us.” Most notably, this beautiful land which we have come to call “God’s country.”
To this end, Jack Herricks, in his role as emcee, pointed out the deep connection to God of those people who work the land. “If you take the ‘H’ from heart and move it to the end, it spells earth.” He explained that farmers who are closest to God’s resources in the earth are also close to His heart.
During the course of the Rural Life Day Mass celebration, special recognition is given to people who have made significant contributions to rural life in the deanery where the celebration occurs. This year, it was La Crosse Deanery. The award given to recognize the outstanding farm family was presented to the Adolph and Therese Trussoni family. This was the first time ever for posthumous recognition. Arnie Trussoni, the current operator of the family farm, was present, making seven of the 14 children present to accept the honor given in honor of their parents.
Nominator Fred Pedretti shared of their many accomplishments, both local and national, such as their key roles in helping Organic Valley grow to be the nation’s largest truly family farm co-op. He shared how the Trussonis were aware of and gave thanks for God’s blessings, and concluded his nomination by stating, “They are the definition of Catholic role models for us all.”
Another award, Friend of Rural Life, is given annually to recognize significant contributions to agriculture and is not restricted to farmers. It was very fitting this year to give this recognition to Don Bina, who served as chair of the Rural Life Committee for more than 40 years, dating back to its inception under Bishop Freking. Current Chair Dick Hauser listed off the many programs and projects which began under the leadership of Mr. Bina. But more than a list of accomplishments, what is most notable is his dedication to God, his Church, his community and as a steward of the creation with which God has blessed us all.
Though the event was hosted on the Wall-Stone Holsteins farm, it was truly a community effort by the St. Charles Parish ladies. In offering words of gratitude for serving as hosts, AnneMarie Elwing wrapped up her comments with three words about the being closely connected to God through rural life: “humbled, honored and blessed.”
By Dan Kitzhaber