Farm and garden blessings: a ‘growing’ tradition

Categories: Around the Diocese


Father Ronald Dockendorf blesses land owned by Dorothy Blommel, left, near Grey Eagle May 19 while members of the St. Francis Mission Group look on. Kristi Anderson / The Visitor

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Whether it’s a strawberry patch or a 100-acre parcel, Father Ronald Dockendorf prays the same words at each of the homes and farms he visits this time of year, asking God to bless the land and
the people who tend it.

Every May 15, the church celebrates the feast day of St. Isidore the Farmer, patron of farmers and rural communities. Since the diocese covers 16 counties and a good amount of Minnesota farmland, many parishes celebrate his feast day by blessing seeds, tractors, farm equipment, animals, the people who work the land and the land itself.

In 2011, Bernie Wielenberg, who was president of the Christian women’s group at St. Joseph Parish in Grey Eagle, asked Father Dockendorf if he would be willing to travel to some of the homes and farms of his parishioners and give them a blessing. When he agreed, Lois Thielen was one of the first to sign up.

“We are a rural parish and the blessing is a nice way to honor that,” Thielen said. “It’s a wonderful custom. It’s important not to forget that this is still a land of a lot of farmers and gardeners.”

This year, Father Dockendorf traveled at least 100 miles and stopped at 37 homes and farms, visiting members from both of his parishes — St. Joseph in Grey Eagle and St. John the Baptist in Swanville. At each stop, he read a prayer from a Book of Blessings and sprinkled holy water in each direction.

“There is a lot of faith involved in farming,” Thielen said. “Sometimes you just have to let go and let God. We wouldn’t sign up each year if we didn’t think it’s a good thing. As farmers, we need all the help we can get.”

At one time, people brought buckets of soil and packets of seeds and placed them near the altar to be blessed. Now Father Dockendorf appreciates the opportunity to go out to people’s homes and farms.

“Besides enjoying the beautiful views of God’s creation along the way, I enjoy making personal connections with the people I see in church each week,” he said.

Father Dockendorf has served the two parishes for nine years — five years as parochial vicar with Father Mark Willenbring and the last four years as pastor. Although he’s been to many of his parishioners’ homes before, he enlists the help of the Knights of Columbus and their spouses to help with driving and navigation.

This year, Philip Cichon and Gerald Thoma helped him tour the land in Swanville, and Don Boucher and Bob Zollar assisted in Grey Eagle. The tradition usually ends with a meal at one of the local restaurants.

“One of the things I appreciate the most is getting to know the land and the people,” Father Dockendorf said. “It is a great joy to go out and give these blessings.”

St. Isidore the Farmer
Isidore was born in Madrid, Spain, to poor parents. When he was old enough to work, he became a farm laborer for a wealthy man. It is said he went to Mass daily and was an ardent worker. He often shared his food with others, keeping scraps for himself. His wife, Maria de la Cabeza, also is honored as a saint. Many miracles have been reported through Isidore’s intercession. He died in 1130. He is patron of farmers, rural communities and of Madrid.
His feast day is May 15.
— Catholic News Service