Thumb-area faithful gather to celebrate rural life


On July 24, at a farm in Ubly, Bishop Robert Gruss presided at a unique Mass which celebrated the rural culture of "the Thumb" region.

Charlie Briolat, a parishioner of Good Shepherd Parish, provided the venue— his wide-open farmstead is surrounded by beet fields and windmills.

“I thought it came together pretty well!” Charlie said.

“Father Stephen (Blaxton) gets the credit for pulling it all off,” he added, explaining that Father Stephen, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Marlette/Sandusky/Peck, organized the event, ordered the tents and other prep work. The Knights of Columbus provided a cookout meal.

From the time he first arrived to the Diocese of Saginaw, Bishop Robert Gruss wanted to celebrate Mass at a local farm, he said, adding that he hopes to offer similar Masses.

“Rural life, whether it be in a town or in the country, can put us in touch with the Kingdom message, leading us to a place of trust, a place of patience, a place of faith, all in relation to the Lord,” Bishop Gruss said in his homily.

He also likened regenerative agricultural practices to the importance of cultivating a rich spiritual life.

“A daily life of prayer, making the Lord Jesus the focus of our lives, living in communion with the Lord are regenerative practices for the soul which allow us to yield greater fruit for the Kingdom,” he said.

Following Mass, Sister Esther Mary Nickel, RSM, gave a presentation about the organization Catholic Rural Life, a national, Catholic nonprofit organization dedicated to the vitality of the American countryside. Sister Esther serves on the board of directors and Bishop Gruss serves as vice president.

“What our mission is, is to promote Catholic rural life in rural communities,” she said.

Catholic Rural Life, she said, supports rural faithful as they "come together as a community of faith."

"It's not only cultivation of soil ... but cultivation of souls," she said.

Holy Family Parish is currently becoming established as a Catholic Rural Life chapter to foster and support Catholic culture in the region. 

Read about Sister Esther Mary and her passion for Catholic Rural Life in the Advent 2018 issue of FAITH Saginaw, page 8.

Learn more about Catholic Rural Life at