When Galen Stumpf was a little boy, he would go upstairs to bed with his 10 siblings. Every night, the children would lay in bed and listen to their parents, Herb and Elvira Stumpf, say their prayers aloud. That had a lasting impact on him.
“Their spirituality — that’s their life and that’s what they passed on to me,” Galen said. “Faith often starts in the home. Some find it later in life, but for me that’s how we lived — going to Mass, praying the rosary. That was all a part of our life.”
And that is why he and his wife, Karla, chose the theme “Rooted in Faith” for this year’s Rural Life Celebration, which they will host at their farm Aug. 12 (see box).
Barb Ryan, rural life coordinator for the eastern region of the diocese, has collaborated with the Stumpfs in preparing for the event.
“The Rural Life Celebration is important as it reminds us to join hands across the community to celebrate all of the basic blessings that begin in our rural homes,” she said. “It’s a good day to soak up our surroundings and be observant of God’s creatures and the beauty of being ‘Rooted in Faith’ to grow the food we eat and to grow and nourish our rural community connections.”
Galen has been a lifelong member of St. Joseph Parish in Pierz and Karla grew up attending St. Michael Parish in Buckman. The two met when Karla was in high school and Galen was driving a school bus for the Pierz school district. But they didn’t start dating until years later. Now they have been married for 36 years and have three grown sons, two daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.
They wanted to host the Rural Life Celebration to honor Galen’s parents, also longtime members of St. Joseph Parish.
“That’s kind of our main reason for doing this,” Galen said. His dad will be 96 in October and his mom is 89. “We’ve got them praying for good weather — that’s their job.”
Galen and Karla’s farm includes two Pilgrim’s Pride chicken barns and crops of corn, soybeans and alfalfa.
“As we’ve gotten older, we realize we have so little control, especially with weather. It’s really all up to God,” Karla said about farm life.
“We are just stewards. We just do what we are called to do and whatever the Lord gives us, that’s a bonus,” Galen added.
The Stumpfs agreed to host the Rural Life Celebration because they wanted to celebrate all God has given them, including their tight-knit community, especially since it has suffered a number of tragedies in recent months with illnesses, accidents, deaths and suicides.
“When someone has a hardship, this town is really something,” Karla said. “The way they come together and support each other.”
“Small communities like ours really bind together to support families that are hurting, suffering,” Galen said. “It makes you think about what this small rural life Mass can do for healing. It’s very special in this community to be able to join together like this.
“It’s a way of bringing people together, because we often go through life doing our own thing and this gives us a chance to stop,” he said. “We can all share in our hardships, we can all lean on each other.”
Most of all, they hope people feel welcome at their farm.
“We are all here for the same reason — faith, family and to celebrate rural life. We want to make it a day for all people,” Galen said.
The Stumpfs and their family, who will be wearing coordinating blue shirts at the event, have planned a variety of activities. The day begins with Mass at 11 a.m. with Bishop Donald Kettler, followed by a speaker, Michelle Litke, who is a teacher at Holy Trinity School in Pierz and a cancer survivor.
“I hope to talk about how we can be supportive of each other in our rural communities, to share the love of Jesus with our neighbors and to express how much it means to give and receive love,” Litke said. “So much good can come from suffering. God wants to use our suffering for good.”
A lunch of beef sandwiches, sweet corn, pasta salad and cookies will be served along with water and lemonade, chocolate and white milk and cheese.
Live music will be playing from the Edge of the Ledge band. Father Ken Popp, pastor of the St. Joseph and St. Michael parishes, recommended the band because his great-nephew Carter Dobmeier is one of the musicians.
“I’m really proud of him and his talent,” Father Popp said. “And I think it will be something different for people to listen to.”
There also will be antique machinery and a bounce house.
This free event is sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Cloud and the Catholic Foundation and will take place rain or shine. A second collection will support the Rural Life Fund, which helps individuals in rural areas who experience a sudden short-term financial set-back. Grants up to $2,000 are available to qualifying individuals through the Catholic Charities Social Concerns department.
“The United States began as a largely rural nation, with most people living in small towns and villages and on farms. And going back to the 1800s, when crisis hit — from drought to debt to mental health struggles — farmers came together to help support one another through the difficulties. The need to do so is still there,” said Kateri Mancini, director of social concerns for Catholic Charities.
“Although agriculture and our rural communities have changed over the years, they are still critical to the fabric of our nation — providing food security, caring for the environment, supporting families and communities,” she said. “The Rural Life Celebration allows our diocese to not only gather to support one another as rural communities, through supporting the Rural Life Fund each year, but also to celebrate and affirm the rich heritage of our rural diocese and the beauty that God has graced us with in central Minnesota.”
Rural Life Celebration
• When: Sunday, Aug. 12
• Where: Galen and Karla Stumpf Family Farm: 12344 Lake Road, Pierz
The celebration will feature outdoor Mass at 11 a.m. with Bishop Donald Kettler, immediately followed by special guest speaker Michelle Litke, a local community member and cancer survivor. The festivities will continue with lunch, entertainment and activities for all ages. This event will take place rain or shine, and supports the Rural Life Fund to help those in need in rural communities throughout the diocese.