Rural Life Sunday a celebration of agriculture’s significance

| Anne Fredrickson | June 15, 2017 | 1 Comment

Byron and Judy Dahlheimer, along with their parish, St. Bridget of Sweden in Lindstrom, are hosting the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ annual Rural Life Sunday celebration June 25 at their Center City farm. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Byron and Judy Dahlheimer are no strangers to hard work, and they know what it takes to get their farm in top-notch condition to host a crowd. But even after hosting three graduation parties on the farm, they are somewhat nervous about their next get-together.

After all, it’s not every day the archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis and a few hundred Catholics stop over for Mass and a meal.

The Dahlheimers’ Center City farm is the site of the annual Archdiocesan Rural Life Sunday Mass, hosted by their parish, St. Bridget of Sweden in Lindstrom, 2 p.m. June 25. While the event has taken place in the archdiocese for more than 50 years, this is the first Rural Life Sunday Mass that Archbishop Bernard Hebda will celebrate.

Rural Life Sunday Celebration and Mass

2 p.m. June 25 at the Byron and Judy Dahlheimer Family Farm, 33091 Oasis Road, Center City, with celebrant Archbishop Bernard Hebda.

Day includes:
• Mass
• Country meal (free-will offering)
• Live music and dance
• Children’s activities and games

Bring your own lawn chairs. Some seating will be provided. In case of rain, the celebration will be held in the pole barn on site.

Dale Hennen, parish specialist with the archdiocesan Office of Parish and Clergy Services, said Rural Life Sunday is a way to affirm and celebrate the rural life that still exists in the archdiocese through prayer and fellowship.

“Certainly, agriculture has changed over the years,” Hennen said, “but its significance to society in providing food security, protecting the environment, and supporting farm families and rural communities is a constant that continues.”

Karl Kornowski, St. Bridget of Sweden’s business administrator, agrees that agriculture has changed, but it still plays a major role in parish families’ lives.

“There remains a strong connection to the farming life here at St. Bridget’s,” he said. “We have many hobby farmers in the area, newer non-traditional agriculture, from alpacas to bison to hops to even solar ‘farms’, all which add to the modern tapestry of rural life. Parishioners whose families have been here for generations often have strong ties to farming, and we who move up here understand the draw to the beauty and peace of the vast lakes, open spaces and culture.”

Byron Dahlheimer, 57, is one of those farmers with strong generational ties. He has been farming since he was young, and “he can’t stop, he just loves it,” said his wife, Judy Dahlheimer, 61.

“The best part is watching things grow,” Byron said. “Watching a pickup load of seed and a semi-truck of fertilizer turn into 25 truckloads of grain at harvest time amazes me every year. I just think it’s a miracle of God.”

While it might be a miracle, the Dahlheimers admit farming is not easy work.

“You do it because you love it,” Judy said. “Byron loves knowing that he’s feeding the world. But you’re out there 24/7, and you put everything you’ve got into it. Byron is up at 5:30 in the morning to go to work and is in the field until midnight, but he doesn’t seem to mind it.”

In addition to raising corn and soybeans on the 200-acre farm, Byron works as a lineman for Xcel Energy. Judy is retired from marketing at Fairview Hospital.

With the amount of work required, Byron is grateful for the help of his sons Kyle, 26, and Dylan, 24, and daughter, Danielle, 18. His sons, who are both engineers for Polaris, help cultivate and harvest.

“It’s a family affair,” Byron said. “My sons and daughter and my older brother Dominic all help, and that carries on the tradition. My dad and uncle farmed together, and I helped them when I was young.”

The Center City farm has been the Dahlheimers’ home since they moved from Dayton 19 years ago. While the Dahlheimers have roots back to the 1800s in Dayton, land and home prices forced them to look elsewhere for farmland.

It was a leap of faith, but for the Dahlheimers, their Catholic faith is an integral part of life on the land.

“Without faith, what have you got at the end of the day?” said Byron, who was raised in a “strong Catholic” household with the example of his aunt, Sister Corinne Dahlheimer, a School Sister of Notre Dame, and uncle, Father Ron Dahlheimer.

Father Dave Kohner, pastor of St. Bridget of Sweden, points out that faith is essential to the life of a farmer.

“The farmer, after all, exercises faith in a practical way when rising each morning to pray for the right mix of sun and rain, wind, pest and disease management and so many other areas related to his or her livelihood that are essentially in the control of our creator,” he said. “Managing to survive and prosper — to raise a family through good and bad growing seasons — requires a trust-based partnership between the farmer, who uses a blend of hard work and ingenuity, coupled with a faith-based recognition that God is in charge.”

The church community at St. Bridget of Sweden has been actively involved in the planning and preparation for the big event, which, in addition to Mass, includes a country meal, live music, and children’s activities and games.

“My hope is that visitors will come to a deeper reflection about the importance of our farmers and the rural community, and will acknowledge and celebrate it,” Hennen said.

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