Bishop Tylka rides in a combine and harvests information on farm life

Pictured with a combine on the Terry Sullivan farm south of Macomb on Oct. 5 are, from left, Theresa Young, Ben Wilson, Terry Sullivan, Bishop Louis Tylka, and Nate Young. Bishop Tylka rode along with Sullivan as he harvested corn that day. (Provided photo/Laura Cody)

MACOMB — Theresa Young describes Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka as “down to earth.”

Perhaps that was most true on Oct. 5, when Bishop Tylka spent about 90 minutes in the fertile soil of McDonough County, experiencing farm life at harvest time, asking questions, and even riding in a combine.

Nate Young explains to Bishop Tylka how data about his corn and soybean fields is stored throughout the year on his cell phone. Bishop Tylka visited farms in the Macomb area on Oct. 5. (Provided photo/Laura Cody)

“We hope he comes back in the spring (for planting season) and can get the full-circle experience,” said Theresa, who with her husband Nate operate the Sullivan-Young Farm north of Macomb.

Bishop Tylka was in Macomb for the final vicariate listening session of his second “Welcome Tour” across the diocese later that evening. About two weeks earlier, while having lunch with Catholic school principals at their annual retreat, he recalled to Laura Cody of St. Paul School in Macomb — who was raised on a farm — that he had climbed into a parked combine when in Raritan last fall for a Harvest Mass.

“Would you like to ride in one?” asked Cody. “When you come to Macomb I can make that happen.”

Cody connected Bishop Tylka with Theresa Young, who is St. Paul School’s development coordinator. The Youngs are the parents of three young children, two of whom are St. Paul students.

“A LOT OF GREAT QUESTIONS”

The original plan was for Bishop Tylka to witness the harvest of soybeans at the Sullivan-Young farm, but Oct. 5 proved not to be the best day for that.

“The sun wasn’t shining, and it was sprinkling and misting,” said Nate Young. “Beans are more finicky with the weather when it comes to harvesting at the right time. With corn, you have a little more leeway.”

Fortunately, Terry Sullivan — a cousin and also a member of St. Paul Parish — was harvesting corn that day at his farm south of Macomb.

So the Youngs, Cody, Bishop Tylka and his master of ceremonies Ben Wilson drove to the Terry Sullivan farm. While waiting for Sullivan to arrive from across the cornfield Bishop Tylka asked the Youngs about farm life.

“I’m not a farmer by any means,” Bishop Tylka, who was raised in the Chicago suburb of Hazel Crest, later told The Catholic Post. “I don’t even grow a vegetable garden. But I’ve always appreciated the ability to grow crops and now I see it on a daily basis,” both on his frequent drives across the diocese and in a field near his residence.

“You could tell he wanted to be there to learn and listen, and he had a lot of great questions,” said Theresa Young. “He had fun and enjoyed himself.”

“HOW WE FEED THE WORLD”

Bishop Tylka learned the difference between sweet corn and field corn, the many factors that go into when the stored harvest is sold, the use of chemicals, and the role of technology in modern farming. At one point, Nate Young took out his cell phone and showed the data about his fields he had gathered throughout the year.

Bishop Tylka climbs into the combine on the Terry Sullivan farm south of Macomb on Oct. 5. (Provided photo/Laura Cody)

“He knows pretty much every inch of his farm,” said Bishop Tylka of Nate, including where the crops are doing well and where more attention needs to be paid.

“I think there’s a common misconception that things on a farm are simple, but anymore it’s quite the opposite,” said Nate. “It’s very complex and the amount of technology we have is extraordinary.”

Bishop Tylka and Wilson got a taste of that technology when they rode in Terry Sullivan’s combine and later watched the corn being unloaded into a storage bin. Later, the group visited a nearby fertilizer business and saw more farm implements.

Bishop Tylka said that since moving to the Diocese of Peoria he has grown in awareness of “how we feed the world.” He was told the majority of the corn he saw being harvested that day might end up in China. The bishop said his hosts expressed “how blessed they are,” and he shared his admiration for the farmers’ “stewardship of the land that God has given us.”

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