By Joe Ruff
Catholic News Service
NEWCASTLE, Neb. — For the past five years each spring and fall, Father Andrew Sohm has traveled the highways, two-lane and dirt roads to farms near the parishes he pastors, St. Peter in Newcastle and St. Joseph in Ponca.
He is busy blessing farmers, seeds and the harvest.
“It’s a chance to get to know my parishioners well,” said Father Sohm, who grew up on a farm near Danbury, Iowa. “Lots of priests have gotten away from blessing the seed, gotten away from the harvest.”
He visits about a half-dozen farms each season, stepping into the barns, fields and farmhouses, praying and visiting. Coffee and cookies, maybe a noon dinner, are part of the invitation.
Some of the farmers, such as Marlan and Sherry Rolfes, give part of their annual harvest to their parish. In addition to St. Peter Parish in Newcastle, part of the Rolfes’ harvest goes to Cedar Catholic Junior-Senior High School in Hartington.
Father Sohm blessed the Rolfes’ properties last month. Marlan Rolfes said he appreciates the visits, and the extra prayers.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s a risky business, farming. We got hailed out in 2009 and 2011. Before that, we’d never been hailed in 50-some years.
“Needless to say, we bought hail insurance. … We trust in the Lord, but we also buy hail insurance,” Rolfes said, laughing.
The Rolfes’ family has been farming in the area since his late father, Alfred, purchased land near Wynot in 1947, Rolfes said. Now his own son, Craig, and brother, Allen, grow corn, soybeans and hay alongside Marlan. Both are members of Holy Family Parish, which includes churches in Wynot, Bow Valley and St. Helena.
The family is grateful for the prayers, Rolfes said.
“Father comes out and gets the Lord involved,” he said. “He’s good at bringing that part of your life into the faith. I think it’s a good practice.”
Ruff is news editor of The Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.