Kanopolis — While “farm animals” are not permitted to reside within the city limits, a quartet of goats from Sarah Goss’ rural farm made the trip into town to be blessed as part of the “flock and field” blessing during the annual St. Isidore Day celebration for the Salina Diocese. “Heavenly Father, we ask you to bless this goat and his partner in the cage,” Father Richard Daise intoned after Mass, on the lawn of St. Ignatius Loyola Church. He continued: “Bless them for what you created them to be as goats.” He then walked over to the bed of Goss’ truck, where an additional trio of goats were penned. “There’s a whole herd in here,” Father Daise exclaimed. “We’ve got the three musketeers in here,” he said before blessing and sprinkling the additional goats with Holy Water.
The annual diocesan celebration, which is held May 15 every year, is hosted by the diocesan Rural Life Commission. About 50 gathered for the festivities, which included Mass, a blessing of the seeds and soil, a blessing of the flock and field, lunch and an agricultural-related tour. Attendees brought a sample from their fields, as well as seeds, which were blessed at the conclusion of Mass.
St. Isidore Day is celebrated to commemorate one of the patron saints of the Salina Diocese. During the homily, Father Brian Lager shared the story of St. Isidore. He was a farmer who desired to attend Mass, but the landowner wanted the farmer to work instead. “St. Isidore continued to go to Mass. Finally the landowner said ‘If you continue to go to mass and don’t work for me during that time, you will lose your job,’ ” Father Lager said. “St. Isidore, being a hard worker, desired to do God’s work first.”
The story goes that St. Isidore continued to attend Mass. One day, the landowner looked at the field to be sure St. Isidore was farming. He saw the oxen and plow going, but it was not St. Isidore who was steering the plow. Instead, he saw an angel driving the plow so St. Isidore could attend Mass. “St. Isidore recognized the most important thing in his life was the work of God,” Father Lager said.
The lesson for us, he said, is to do our work and do it well. “However, we don’t put the work of the world first. We put the work of God first,” Father Lager said. We then set about our essential daily tasks, and “all work in our day is somehow sanctified when we bring God into the workplace and the work that we do.”
Following Mass, the blessings and lunch, the group traveled to Great Plains Manufacturing in Ellsworth for a plant tour. Dale Wooten, plant manager, led the group through the plant, which builds vertical tillage equipment. The group started in the north end of the building, in the steel warehouse where the structural steel arrives. “This was a blank canvas,” he said of the warehouse, which is almost 170,000 square feet. Great Plains purchased the building and opened the manufacturing site in 2008. “Because it was empty, we could create the best flow for manufacturing,” Wooten added.
From the steel warehouse, the metal goes to fabrication, where it is cut into individual elements. Next, those components are welded together. Some hand-welding is done, but there are several welding robots. While some were initially concerned welding robots would displace human workers, Wooten said it isn’t always easy to find skilled workers. “Welders are hard to find in manufacturing,” he said. “You see less hard core welders and more robot welders because of that.”
Yet the machines have not replaced jobs. “A robot is a computer with an arm on it,” Wooten said. “Somebody is operating that robot.” Because welders can be difficult to find, he said Great Plains a weld shop inside of the Ellsworth Correctional Facility because “we can’t find welders.” Once the components are welded, it goes into the paint shop. It is then assembled and shipped out.
Ron Whitmer, who lives in Ellsworth, attended St. Isidore Day for the first time. “I grew up on a farm, and probably at the age of 12 was running a combine and tractors,” he said. “Once it’s in your blood, I don’t think you can get it out of your blood.” He went to medical school, became a doctor and returned to Ellsworth to practice family medicine and farm. He said he wanted to attend a celebration that honored the patron saint of farmers. Currently, he farms more than 2,000 acres of wheat, corn and milo with his son, John. “I think it’s very important to have a day like this,” he said. “I see a lot of people who are depressed because of the farming situation we try to help them out. At this time, we’re living in a drought area, a period of time where commodities are very low priced. A lot of farmers are having a lot of problems.”
Taking time to recognize farmers and honor their patron seemed like a good way for the parishioner of St. Bernard in Ellsworth to spend his day. The tour of Great Plains was the first time he visited the plant, although over the years they have owned more than a half dozen of their products. “I was very impressed. the way that the equipment is put together, how it is manufactured and all the different steps to end up with an end product,” he said. “The other thing (that surprised me) was they take the raw steel and fabricate everything out of that. I thought some of that would come pre-fabricated.”