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Open invitation: Joens' farm is site of Harvest Mass on Friday

WILMONT -- Jim and Joan Joens are hosting a party Friday -- a big party. There will be a guest of honor and perhaps as many as 800 people in attendance.

The Joens family farm, located just east of Wilmont on Minnesota 266, will be the site for the Diocese of Winona's Harvest Mass, an annual gathering that will be presided over by Bishop Bernard Harrington.

"It might be at Jim Joens' place, but it's a church event, a community event," emphasized Jim. "You don't have to be Catholic to attend. It's a celebration of the Feast of Mary and the fall harvest beginning."

The diocese stretches all across the bottom part of Minnesota, and the Harvest Mass is hosted in a different region each year. Jim and Joan were first broached about hosting the event a couple of years ago by their then-parish priest, the Rev. Gerald Kosse. At first, they weren't sure if they wanted to undertake such an endeavor, but after attending a couple of Harvest Masses themselves and with Kosse's urging, they finally agreed.

"The diocese does a background check on you to make sure it's going to work," Jim said. "They want to make sure it's on a family farm, and the diocese (organizers) has their own idea of what they want."

Once the site was approved, planning went into full swing. Seven committees have been working for months to coordinate food, entertainment, decorations, set up, parking and other aspects of the event.

"We've had lots of help from the parish, family, friends," said Joan, explaining that their church, Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church, is the host parish, but since it is clustered with Catholic churches in Adrian, St. Kilian and Lismore, those congregations are also contributing to the effort.

Kosse has since been assigned to another parish, but he's assured Jim and Joan that he will be in attendance, as will their new priest, the Rev. Tom Hall.

"Father Kosse had us going in the right direction before he left," said Jim. "He wanted this area to have a Harvest Mass for a long time. That was one of his goals, to get the Harvest Mass out here."

"Wilmont has never had one," added Joan.

In the months leading up the Mass, the entire Joens family has been busy sprucing up the farm site. They've painted, planted, trimmed and cleaned.

"My dad said, 'There's probably projects you've wanted to get done for years. Now you have to get them done,'" related Jim.

Jim is a grain farmer and also raises cattle and helps out his sons in their endeavors, while Joan is employed in the dietary department at Worthington Regional Hospital. They have four sons and one daughter: Isaac (Sarah), Derrick (Brianne), Phillip (Amber), James III, and Anna; and seven grandchildren. Everyone will be on hand Friday.

"They better be," said Joan with a laugh. "They know that when Mom says yes, she says yes for the whole family."

Jim and Joan and their extended family have undertaken a couple of special projects in conjunction with the Mass. A Mary Garden has been planted that incorporates a statue of the Madonna encased in a stained glass grotto, which was painstakingly crafted by family members. The outside is covered in rocks, but the inside is stained glass mosaic, applied piece by tiny piece.

A Mary Garden is planted with flowers and herbs that have significance to the Virgin Mary.

"She found an article in one of the diocesan newsletters that explains what all the flowers in the garden stand for," said Jim.

As their gift to all those who attend the Harvest Mass, the Joens family will distribute packets containing seeds for flowers appropriate to a Mary Garden. They will also present special gifts to the bishop, priests and other dignitaries in attendance.

A large stained glass cross has also been crafted by family members, and it will occupy a place of prominence during the Mass and later will be placed in a permanent spot in the Mary Garden, too.

The site will be blessed, and Mass participants are encouraged to bring items from their own properties to be blessed by the bishop, too.

The event will begin with the celebration of Mass at 10 a.m. on the slope behind the Joens' house. A trailer will serve as an altar, flanked by the cattail-rimmed marshland that is adjacent to the property.

"I suggested at one time that we could cut down the cattails, put the bishop on a pontoon and float him out there," joked Jim, "but the event coordinator vetoed that."

Jim and Joan have been told to expect up to 800 people for the Mass, with probably 600 staying for the lunch and entertainment that will follow. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs to be assured of a place to sit.

With everything in place, their main concern now is the weather; in case of rain, the Mass would move to Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church.

"I hope we can have it out here," said Jim. "We've been cleaning way too much not to have it out here."

"We hope people can come out, spend a little time, enjoy the day," emphasized Joan.

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Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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