I am fortunate enough to be able to spend my summer in a parish in my home diocese, the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota's most rural diocese. I am living with the pastor in the rectory of the Church of Our Lady in Manannah, Minnesota. Now, I grew up on a farm north of a very small town called Seaforth. This is a town of fewer than eighty residents. Imagine my surprise when I drove into Manannah for the first time and found that this town is actually smaller than Seaforth! It's population is below forty! In fact, it is not even an incorporated city. Manannah has no mayor or other city governing body. Rather, it is a small collection of residences, a church, and a tavern called the Hilltop that is located in Manannah township. The parish itself is quite large for being located in such a small town with about 600 members.
So far in Manannah I have taken communion to parishioners in nursing homes in the area, helped build a parish float for the Manannah Daze parade, ridden on the parish float for the Manannah Daze parade, helped dig a hole in the cemetery (not for a grave, but for the concrete base of a new altar being constructed), watched trees be taken down and a large whole be dug for the gathering space now under construction, among other things. Now I am preparing to spend five days in the Boundary Waters with eight parishioners in less than two weeks.
Busy as Manannah is (you would actually be amazed at how busy things can be around the parish), I am also helping out in the neighboring parish of St. Philip's located just over ten miles away in Litchfield, MN. St. Philip's is a parish of around 1,700 members located in a town of about 6,500 people. I typically go to Litchfield on Thursdays for the Masses at the two nursing homes in town, Bethany and Emmanuel. I also drive into Litchfield either for their Saturday evening Mass or for their two Sunday morning Masses. I am also trying to get to Spanish Mass that takes place every Sunday as well.
Parish life is very interesting and can be a lot of fun. Now halfway through my time working with these two parishes, I feel that this has already been an excellent experience for me, especially sine I am so near the beginning of his seminary years (I have one year completed with five years of school and one year in a parish yet remaining). This experience has helped me to confirm my confidence in my vocation to the priesthood and hopefully will serve as a reminder for me of that towards which I am working throughout the school year as well. God bless you all!