Monday was an enjoyable day at Sweet Ridge Farm for many reasons. Naturally, Labor Day is always a special day to celebrate. September 5th also marks the birthday of my littlest brother, James. Though he turned 17, I am positive that I will continue to coddle him till he’s about 70. However, with that subject matter aside, I will write this post on the special Labor Day Celebrations here. The Slattery Farm was filled to the brim. It was filled with the company of 14 visiting Mexicans from southern Mexico, 1 seminarian named Fernando Hernandez, the famous Father Joe Hirsch, who is vocations director of the LaCrosse Diocese, and a few other folks who were just along for the visit.
If I may, I will backtrack to a Labor Day several years ago. Back then Fernando was an illegal immigrant picking apples at an organic apple orchard located about an hour away from our farm. I was told that at this point in his life he had such a zeal to get to the local rural church that the hippies at the orchard would provide transportation to get him there. Well, apparently the zeal never died. This year, he will be ordained as a Catholic priest in the LaCrosse Diocese. He will be celebrating his First Masses at the same churches in the steep hills surrounded by apple orchards where he arrived as immigrant apple picker years ago.
Beautiful story, right? Well what is even more gorgeous is that my family got to meet him and his entire extended family on Monday. When you come to Sweet Ridge Farm, you leave as a friend. Sure, there were a few glitches to hosting our new friends from Mexico. There first would be that we have NO natural Spanish speaking skills around here (where are you Kate when we need you!!). Luckily, Father Joe was able to act as an interperator. Dad had no qualms about meeting and visiting with Fernando and family. The fact that he doesn’t speak Spanish didn’t phase him a bit, or keep him from describing his farming operations at length.
Nor did he have any hesitancy about loading all 15 of them up in the wagon and taking them on a little hour long farm tour. Upon seeing a tangle of bodies crawling into our old blanket laden wagon, my cousin Cale commented at their bravery. He had never seen a group of people outside our family so willing to squeeze into such a rickety ride. Fernando was quite a gracious gentleman about it.
More fun followed after the farm tour. Mom and I made a big meal to share with all. We also had a birthday cake for my embarrassed birthday boy brother. James was sung birthday songs in spanish for quite some time. What enthusiasm they had. James was not quite so enthused.
After cake and many exclamations of enthusiam from our guests we all headed across the road to the church. James was thrilled to escape his long serenade of spanish songs. While at the church Father Joe led the group in spanish praise and worship songs. Hands swayed in the air, voices soared, laughter and clapping broke out spontaneously. Dad informed my mother, who is the co-choir Director at our staid and solidly German Catholic parish that he had never heard such loud, free, and joyful music in those pews.
We took a group photo in the church to commemorate our Mexican Labor Day…
And they left the farm as our friends.
Deacon Fernando Lara Hernandez will be ordained on Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. at St. Joseph the Workman, Cathedral, La Crosse, WI. His First Masses will be celebrated at: St. Mary Parish in Gays Mills on Saturday, September 10th at 5:30 p.m. and at St. Philip Parish in Rolling Ground on Sunday, September 11th at 10:30 am.
Congratulations to Fernando Hernandez and his family!