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We are all farmers

Bishop Bonnar greets young man who brings up the gifts during Mass
Photo by Jimmy Joe Savage

When I was a parish priest, I always enjoyed collaborating with married couples on a pre-marriage preparation program. Twice a year our parish would offer a four-evening session for the engaged standing on the threshold of marriage. As a priest, I was responsible for the spiritual component of the program, emphasizing the importance of prayer and welcoming Jesus into a marriage. Married couples in the parish were responsible for organizing the presentations at these events, addressing relevant issues and topics foundational to living a healthy and holy marriage.

One of the talks I always looked forward to hearing was the one on adjustments in marriage. These “adjustments” are often behavioral modifications that need to be made along the way throughout a marriage, for the good of the relationship. 

In this case, what is true of marriage is equally true of the priesthood—not to mention any walk of life. We often encounter the need to adjust or change what we do, how we do it or how we look at things. As I continue to grow in my role as your bishop, I am mindful of two intentional and necessary adjustments that I have had to make for the good of the Church. 

First, I continue to study and learn Spanish. With a growing Hispanic population in the diocese, I feel it is important for me to speak and pray with our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters. At our most recent Hispanic Summit, I left my comfort zone and began to speak without notes. I look forward to the day when I can speak Spanish fluently. I continue to work on this adjustment, even though it is particularly challenging, given that I know Italian. The two languages are so close in nature that sometimes I become confused—intermingling Spanish with Italian.

The second intentional and necessary adjustment that has emerged for me, as your bishop, is acknowledging that we live in a rural diocese. The more I travel throughout the six counties of the diocese, the more I see just how rural we are. 

Having been born and raised in the suburbs just outside of Pittsburgh with a father who was a butcher by trade, I have had to adjust my mindset and enter this new world. It is vital that as a Church we are attentive to the needs of our farming brothers and sisters. To this end, some time ago I appointed Father Kevin Peters as the diocesan director of the Office of Rural Life and Ministry. 

In this role, Father Peters is a cheerleader, calling all our priests to be more intentional about rural ministry. In fact, last month, I visited a farm in Orwell, Ashtabula County, with Father Peters and Father Ray Thomas, pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Ashtabula.

As I continue to adjust to this rural reality, I have attempted to provide myself with key resources. For example, I am a regular subscriber to Catholic Rural Life. This publication looks at how rural ministry is unfolding in various parts of our country, from a Catholic perspective. 

In addition, I look forward every week to receiving my issue of Farm and Dairy, which is geared toward rural matters in the tri-state area. A recent issue (Thursday, April 11, 2024) contained an article by Patrick Cooley. The article referenced data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service that completed a study that found that those living in rural areas face a greater health threat due, in part, to a lack of hospitals and supermarkets. 

The same article noted a 2022 American Hospital Association Report indicating that, between 2010 and 2021, 136 rural hospitals closed their doors. The author concludes the article by offering hope through investment, encouraging the government and nonprofits to step up and address the challenge. 

Even though Jesus grew up in a home with Joseph, who was a carpenter, He nonetheless appreciated rural life. In fact, Jesus often turns to agricultural images like seeds, grains of wheat, vines, branches, trees, fruit, fish, the “fatted calf,” and shepherds and sheep to preach the Gospel. Perhaps it was His way of underlining the importance of growth in the realm of faith and the fact that we are all farmers. Rural ministry is really a metaphor for the Kingdom of God. Let’s get to work!   

Let us also do all that we can to support and encourage our farmers and never hesitate to seek the intercession of Saint Isadore, the patron saint of farmers.


Cuando yo era un sacerdote de parroquia, siempre disfrutaba colaborar con parejas casadas en el programa de preparación prematrimonial. Dos veces al año, nuestra parroquia ofrecía una sesión de cuatro tardes para los novios que se encontraban en el umbral del matrimonio. Como sacerdote, yo era el responsable del componente espiritual del programa, enfatizando la importancia de la oración y de acoger a Jesús en el matrimonio. Las parejas casadas de la parroquia eran las responsables de organizar las presentaciones de estos eventos, en las que se abordaban cuestiones relevantes y temas fundamentales para vivir un matrimonio sano y santo.

Una de las charlas que siempre me hacía mucha ilusión escuchar era la de los ajustes en el matrimonio. Estos “ajustes” suelen ser modificaciones de comportamiento que hay que hacer a lo largo del matrimonio, por el bien de la relación.

En este caso, lo que es cierto para el matrimonio es igualmente cierto para el sacerdocio, sin mencionar cualquier ámbito de la vida. A menudo nos encontramos con la necesidad de ajustar o cambiar lo que hacemos, cómo lo hacemos o cómo vemos las cosas. A medida que continúo creciendo en mi papel como obispo, estoy consciente de dos ajustes intencionales y necesarios que he tenido que hacer por el bien de la Iglesia.

Primero, continúo estudiando y aprendiendo español. Con una comunidad hispana que crece en la diócesis, siento que es importante para mí hablar y orar con nuestros hermanos y hermanas de habla hispana. En nuestra reciente Cumbre Hispana, salí de mi zona de confort y comencé a hablar sin notas. Espero con ansias el día en que pueda hablar español con fluidez. Sigo trabajando en esta adaptación, aunque me es particularmente difícil, dado que sé italiano. Los dos idiomas son tan parecidos por naturaleza que a veces me confundo, mezclando español con italiano.

El segundo ajuste intencional y necesario que me ha surgido, como su obispo, es reconocer que vivimos en una diócesis rural. Cuanto más viajo por los seis condados de la diócesis, más veo cuán rurales somos.

Habiendo nacido y crecido en los suburbios en las afueras de Pittsburgh, con un padre que era carnicero de profesión, 

tuve que ajustar mi forma de pensar y entrar en este nuevo mundo. Es vital que como Iglesia estemos atentos a las necesidades de nuestros hermanos y hermanas agricultores. Con este fin, hace algún tiempo nombré al Padre Kevin Peters como director diocesano del Ministerio Rural.

En este papel, el Padre Peters alienta y llama a todos nuestros sacerdotes a ser más intencionales en el ministerio rural. De hecho, el mes pasado visité una granja en Orwell, condado de Ashtabula, con el padre Peters y el padre Ray Thomas, párroco de la parroquia Nuestra Señora de la Paz en Ashtabula.

A medida que sigo adaptándome a esta realidad rural, he intentado proporcionarme de recursos clave. Por ejemplo, soy un suscriptor habitual de Catholic Rural Life (Vida Rural Católica). Esta publicación analiza cómo se está desarrollando la pastoral rural en varias partes de nuestro país, desde una perspectiva católica.

 Además, espero con ansias recibir cada semana mi ejemplar de Farm and Dairy (La Granja y Lechería), que está orientado a asuntos rurales en el área de los tres estados. Un ejemplar reciente (jueves 11 de abril de 2024) contenía un artículo de Patrick Cooley. El artículo hacía referencia a datos del Servicio de Investigación Económica del Departamento de Agricultura de EE. UU. que completó un estudio que encontró que quienes viven en áreas rurales enfrentan una mayor amenaza para la salud debido, en parte, a la falta de hospitales y supermercados.

El mismo artículo destacó un informe de la Asociación Estadounidense de Hospitales de 2022 que indica que, entre 2010 y 2021, 136 hospitales rurales cerraron sus puertas. El autor concluye el artículo ofreciendo esperanza a través de la inversión, alentando al gobierno y a las organizaciones sin fines de lucro a dar un paso al frente y abordar el desafío.

Aunque Jesús creció en un hogar con José, que era carpintero, apreciaba la vida rural. De hecho, Jesús recurre a menudo a imágenes agrícolas como semillas, granos de trigo, parras, ramas, árboles, frutas, peces, el “becerro gordo” y pastores y ovejas para predicar el Evangelio. Quizás fue Su manera de destacar la importancia del crecimiento en el ámbito de la fe y el hecho de que todos somos agricultores. El ministerio rural es realmente una metáfora del Reino de Dios. ¡Pongámonos a trabajar!

Hagamos también todo lo que podamos para apoyar y alentar a nuestros agricultores y no dudemos nunca en buscar la intercesión de San Isadoro, el santo patrón de los agricultores.

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Picture of Bishop David J. Bonnar

Bishop David J. Bonnar

Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Most Reverend David J. Bonnar was installed as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Youngstown on January 12, 2021. He received a bachelor degree in Social Communications from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome receiving a Bachelor in Sacred Theology (STB) in 1987 from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. As a priest in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Bishop Bonnar served as parochial vicar at Saint Vitus Parish, New Castle; Saint Rosalia Parish, Greenfield; and Saint Thomas More Parish, Bethel Park. He served as chaplain at Central Catholic High School and as Director of Vocations, Director of the Pre-Ordination program, Director of the Permanent Diaconate program and Rector of Saint Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh. In 2009, Bishop Bonnar was appointed pastor of Saint Bernard Parish, Mt. Lebanon and from 2018 also served as administrator of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Scott Township. In 2020, he was named pastor of Saint Aidan Parish, Wexford. On November 17, 2020, His Holiness Pope Francis appointed him the sixth Bishop of Youngstown. In addition to his ministerial assignments, Bishop Bonnar has also served on the Diocese of Pittsburgh Post-Ordination Board, Clergy Personnel Board, Seminary Admissions Board, Chair of the Permanent Diaconate Admissions Board, Chair of the Priestly Formation Board, and Chair of the Priesthood Candidate Admission Board. Since 2014, Bishop Bonnar has been the editor of The Priest magazine and in 2020 was appointed a member of the National Advisory Board for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. For 12 years Bishop Bonnar was also chaplain to the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers professional football team.
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