Caretaker Retreat
There's No Place Like Granny's
Repairing Homes, Renewing Communities
For the Love of Chickens
Summer Servant Reflection
By Kara Feeley
Waking up to birds chirping and the sun shining through your window every single morning for almost a month is a uniquely wonderful experience. So often we're woken up by an alarm and the first thing we do is check our cell phone for messages, or check our laptop for emails. [This past] summer I had the amazing opportunity of being a summer servant. I got to see just how much work goes into making Bethlehem Farm function. I guess you could say I got to experience all of the "behind the scenes" work that helps the farm be able to host multiple groups of up to 35 high schoolers. To be completely honest, while it was definitely hard work at times, like weeding hundreds of prickly thistles, it was an incredible journey! I even begged to stay an extra week because I loved it so much. The community you build and the beauty you experience is breathtaking! I woke up every single morning just to step outside and be amazed at God's beautiful work. Applying to be a summer servant was the best decision I could have made for the summer before college. It helped me grow in faith by leading others and serving the Lord. Now that I'm living in a city again, I long for the beautiful rolling hills of West Virginia. Many people call the farm their home, and to me, that's exactly what it is. The farm is a place where I feel completely happy and at peace, and being a summer servant is a life changing opportunity I believe everyone should experience at least once if not multiple times!

Kim Bremer
Colleen Fitts
Eric Fitts
Marissa Minnick
Tim Peregoy
Lauren Schoendorf
Joe Tracy-Prieboy
Julie Tracy-Prieboy

Board Members
Frederick Pratt (Chair)
Adam Fischer (Treas.)
Kathryn Silberman (Sec.)
Scott McNelis (V. Chair)
Jake Teitgen
Caitlin Morneau
Paul Daugherty
Fr. Arthur Bufogle
Tom Ruggaber
Brian Suehs-Vassel
Jana Strom
Monthly Giving: Spread the Love Out All Year Long
By Eric, Director 


Monthly giving is an easy way to support the farm each month, without having to plan for a large annual donation. If you are interested in joining the monthly giving circle at Bethlehem Farm, then there are three easy ways to get that going:


1)      Set up an auto-bill-pay in your online checking account for a monthly donation to "Bethlehem Farm, PO BOX 415, TALCOTT, WV  24981". Depending on your bank, a small fee may apply. If the bank uses EFT instead of sending a paper check through the mail, then you may call or email the Farm (304-445-7143) and ask for our routing and account numbers. The nice thing about auto-bill-pay or EFT is that your full contribution will go to the Farm.


2)      Go to our online donation page (, then either click on the "donate now" button, enter your monthly pledge, place a check in the "make this recurring (monthly)" box, and proceed to checkout with Paypal or a credit card OR choose a monthly giving amount from the drop-down menu and click on "donate monthly" and proceed from there. Paypal takes a small (2-3%) processing fee and we 

receive the donation in our account.


3)      Write a check monthly and mail it to "Bethlehem Farm, PO BOX 415, TALCOTT, WV  24981".


Monthly donors currently give between $5 and $150 each month. In 2014, the monthly giving circle contributed over $15,000, which was almost 15% of all donations.


Why would you choose to be a monthly donor?

Some reasons that our donors choose to give monthly:

  • We decided that we needed to prioritize our faith not only in our time and actions, but also in our budget
  • Each time we visit Bethlehem Farm and see the life-changing work that is going on there, we are inspired to give a donation
  • This way our gift is an expense that is already factored into our spending, and prioritized above those extra dinners, cups of coffee and other luxuries
  • We can't be at Bethlehem Farm participating in the mission daily, but we can live out our vocation in our own lives while still supporting and being a part of the work of Bethlehem Farm through our consistent giving
  • Giving this way makes it easy for me to not forget
  • Our sense of continued connection to our special experience at Bethlehem Farm and our desire to assist in affording the opportunity of that experience to others. The work done at the Farm is true evangelization.
  • Because I believe the farm is an apostolic community, living out the gospel message, as authentically as possible
  • Because we feel that Bethlehem Farm is an authentic way to propagate the gospel and because we have seen just how far they can stretch resources towards living the gospel. $100 at Bethlehem Farm seems to go SO much further than we'd be able to stretch it ourselves. 
  • I understand how real and alive the Spirit is working in the community
  • Because of the speech Eric gives at the end of each group week about the importance of tithing and how he and Colleen started this practice as newly-wed grad students making next to nothing.  And the Farm touched me so deeply in so many ways, and was such a huge part of my life discernment, that I want to make sure I am doing my part to help it continue to exist.
  • I see how the experience of the Farm continues to affect and form my students into active, passionate, and engaged citizens and activists
  • Because I believe in the mission. As a volunteer, I fell in love with the community and as a Summer Servant, I was challenged in my faith. The decisions I make today - as a Catholic and as a teacher - are influenced by the Gospel cornerstones I learned to live at Bethlehem Farm. 
  • As a way to tend to my spiritual garden, which does not get enough attention otherwise.
  • It's a monthly checkup of sorts for us to see how we are living the cornerstones where we live. Additionally we feel its very important for the Caretakers to know they are not alone in their work, that they have partners in their mission that they can count on each and every month to help support them, even in a small way.


Yes, I'd like to become a monthly donor.

That sounds nice, I can't commit now, but here's a one-time gift.


Monthly Giving Circle


Carrie & Andrew Archual, Sue Augustus, Michael Deines, Patrick & Jeanne Dignan, Liz Drapa*, Eric & Colleen Fitts*, Katie Feise*, Anthony Ferrari, Adam Fischer* Alice Foreman, Bob Gill, John Hannagan, Lauren LaCoy, Randal & Dawna Lewis, Mariana Lo*, John & Chris Marasi, Kera & Scott McNelis* Bob Neary, Michael Newman, Laura & John O'Donnell, Lisa (& Ransome) Patterson, Frederick Pratt*, Andy Rebollar & Andi Grandy*, Bob & Pat Rebollar, Sarah & Tom Rooney, Margaret Shaia, Marc Slain, Amy & De Spurlock, Jake & Alicen Teitgen*, Joe & Julie Tracy-Prieboy*, Mary Williams, Anna Wright

*current & former Caretakers & board members  

A Retreat to Re-Energize and Recharge

By Lauren, Caretaker 


Be still and know that I am God.

Be still and know that I am.

Be still and know.

Be still.



This meditative stanza was one of the first bits of advice Brother Joe shared with the Caretaker community as we began our weekend retreat together. Brother Joe explained how he would like to begin each session with silent meditation and mentioned the above stanza as a method to use when centering ourselves. Being a person who finds sitting still difficult, let alone closing my eyes and centering myself, I found the meditative stanza he shared to be very helpful. Brother Joe invited us into a weekend of spiritual renewal and contemplation. We spent most of our time in the chalet living room we were renting out and it was the perfect space for the Caretaker community to be comfortable while engaging in personal and group spiritual dialogue.


The Caretaker community traveled to Huttonsville, West Virginia and resided at the Bishop Hodges Catholic Pastoral Center. Our retreat leader, Brother Joe is a Franciscan Brother who lives in community with fellow Franciscans on Mount Irenaeus. Their ministry as a community is running a retreat center and living in "communion with God and all creation through contemplation and the communal experience of God's justice, love and peace in contemporary everyday life." It wasn't long until we found common ground as a whole community with Brother Joe.


Before each session Brother Joe would light a candle and ring his meditation bowl bell three times. I began to enjoy the 10-15 minute silent meditation, and this time became less daunting as I continued to repeat the meditative stanza he suggested. I found myself using God with Love interchangeably, and was able to relate to the flow of how that felt more. The first time we meditated before a session I was focusing on my breathing and repeating the stanza in my head and my thoughts started to wander effortlessly towards prayer and the present moment. I then lost focus when I realized this was happening and got excited and congratulated myself. I softly chuckled and brought myself back into this state a few minutes later. Each opening time of meditation was softly halted with three soft rings of the meditation bowl bell.


Towards the end of my retreat I began yearning for more silent time and this realization has been the biggest takeaway from the retreat for me. As human beings I feel as if we converse about the power and importance of sitting in silence and quiet contemplation but often times make excuses as to why we don't have time for it. I rarely found space in my life for quiet contemplation and realized on the retreat it was because I felt as if I didn't know how to do it. Admitting that now is comical since it seems like such an easy exercise to do anywhere you are but I recognize now I simply didn't know how to guide my river of thoughts. Now being home from the retreat a few days I have made a point of repeating the meditative stanza Brother Joe suggested. I haven't necessarily started to when I'm doing nothing or before bed but have found times when washing dishes and driving to be great times to be silent and become more present in the moment. 


Having quiet times for prayer within the Caretaker community has reminded us of the importance of sharing quiet times throughout this year's upcoming group weeks.  This retreat helped us refocus and will give us the inspiration to teach the volunteers about using silent times to pray and think about God.  Even though there are several moments of manual work on a volunteer week, that does not mean that volunteers don't have to continue thinking and meditating, helping to remind them of why they are doing God's work. I look forward to my own continuing journey of silent meditation and quiet contemplation and am thankful for Brother Joe and the time the Caretakers spent together on retreat. 


This article presented by a generous grant from Our Sunday Visitor

There's No Place Like Granny's!

By Kim, Caretaker


Loretta 'Granny' Cline lives 2 miles from the farm on Clayton Road. On our January group week, students from Caldwell University (NJ) and Avila University (MO) helped transform Granny's old rotting deck into a fresh, new porch complete with a roof to keep snow, rain, and sun off of Granny and her deck. The week proved quite challenging with weather in the single digits. But Granny was very generous in warming up volunteers in her toasty home and keeping our bellies full with home cooked meals everyday.  


Loretta was born and raised in Mingo County, WV except for the three years she spent in Virginia. She has a son, three daughters, 14 grandchildren, and 'too many to count' great grandchildren. "Call me Granny 'cause I'm everyone's Granny," Loretta told volunteers and caretakers as they gathered on the first day of working at her house. I certainly felt like Granny was my own grandma by the end of the week!


Granny waves from her new porch


Granny has lived in her home in front of farm friends, Anne and Mark, for 20 years. Her husband worked in the coal mines in Logan and Mingo County for 40 years. Loretta took care of him for the last three years of his life as he was no longer able to walk or breathe well. He passed away in 2002, and Granny began taking care of the elderly and handicapped. She loved the work but had to give it up when she was no longer able to drive. Ever since Granny moved to Summers County, she knew about the "Catholic Farm" and had always wanted to go and check it out. Through our work on her porch, she has become a dear friend to the farm and has come out to her very first community night. She is very excited to come to our upcoming community nights in March! Granny's parting advice to everyone is "you have to be a Christian first. It's the best life to live. Without the Lord I would have nothing and be nothing."


If you ever visit Granny, she is sure to warm your soul with a big hug and an "I love you, baby!" as well as fill your belly with her delicious food. 

Repairing Homes, Renewing Communities 2015

By Joe, Caretaker 

Dorman, Kim, and Marissa holding a cat on the new carpet


Once the group season is over in October, we don't do as much home repair in the community, and we focus on getting projects done around the Farm.  Despite this, we have completed several home repair projects this winter.  We worked with one of our closest neighbors on Clayton Road, Loretta (aka Granny).  We repaired her front porch and built a roof over it to make it easier for her to be able to get out of the house in the winter when the snow piles up.  We put in a new carpet and window for Bertha and Dorman, who are friends we worked with a few years ago.  We finished off the work at Garlan and Linda's by blowing insulation into their attic.  We also redid a bathroom for Jackie, which included putting in wainscoting on the walls, repainting the whole room, and putting new linoleum on the floor.  It has been a very mild winter here in West Virginia, except, of course, for the one week our volunteers came in January, where we had temperatures in the single digits.  As usual, our volunteers did a great job of battling the elements in a spirit of service to our neighbors.  

For the Love of Chickens

By Marissa, Caretaker 


Me and Blondie

I don't name the chickens.  That's the smartest thing that I can do.  I try not to make friends with them, either, knowing that they're here for egg laying, compost turning, and eventually ending up in stew.  Despite my firm resolve to not make friends with them, though, when I go out and feed them and they gather around my feet and cluck, I can't help but talk to them and laugh at them and pet their smooth feathers if they let me.


There was a euphemism written on the farm's November calendar in red: "Chicken Harvest." It was something that I was, weirdly enough, looking forward to.  I convinced myself that harvesting the chickens would add more legitimacy to my job as a farmer, add ethical credence to my omnivorous practices.  Instead of turning a blind eye to where my meat comes from as most Americans are wont to do, I was going to face the chicken harvest head on (well, head off if we're being totally accurate).


I somehow became the resident expert on vent checking, ultimately giving me the responsibility to determine which chickens were still laying and which were going to meet their end.  The other Caretakers and I would flip the chickens over, pull back their tail feathers, and I would check the space between their bones, along with the moistness of their vent.  Dry vent? Down for the count.  Moist vent? They had three days to sit in an isolated chicken tractor and produce an egg.  It was there that the only chicken I've called by name laid her egg: Blondie.  Kim named her, but I agreed to call her that.  She would survive this harvest, and she was sweet enough to let me hold her and even cuddle, at least as much as a chicken can. 


The euphemistic day was incredibly crisp, but sunny, the perfect weather for chicken harvesting in many ways.  Joe and I gathered the chickens from the coop, frantically clucking as if they understood their fate, as if they could sense the adrenaline and apprehension coursing through my veins and knew that something was different about that day.  There was a still silence on the farm as we carried the chickens over to the deck, time to think and breathe before the deed was done. 


Joe chopped the first chicken while I held the legs.  I closed my eyes as the hatchet came down on the neck, a chopping sound followed by the rapid jerking of the chicken's body, blood flowing out.  Then it came my turn to do the actual chopping.  The chicken looked up at me as I held the hatchet, and I had a brief moment of reluctance.  It had eyes, was just walking around in the coop, had just been clucking.  This was my job, though.  I eat meat, and there are many animals that have died caged and unloved in order for me to eat them.  It was time.  It was time.


After the first chicken, it did become easier.  It became a rhythm, a task to be done to feed others.  Our cat, Iggy, slunk around our feet, gnawing on the legs and necks that had fallen out of buckets.  Chicken harvesting is not a pretty event, nor should it be taken lightly or with glee.  But it is part of being on the farm, and it was something I knew I should be prepared to do.  We finished before the sun went down, the freezer filled with bags of chickens and a sense of security for the winter.


We've added a new group of chickens, and fortunately they are finally beginning to get on with the egg laying. These ones aren't quite as sweet as the other ones, but they'll occasionally listen to me as I talk to them.  Blondie is still kicking it in the coop, along with the other chickens that were laying and survived past the harvest.  I try not to pet the chickens, because they aren't pets.  But every once in a while, one of them will look up at me or walk by my feet and I can't help but lean down and give them a quick pat.  I don't make friends with them, though.  And besides Blondie, I still don't name them.  Because that's the smartest thing I can do.  
Special thanks to for their generous grant.

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