SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Roman Catholics in central Illinois offer prayers for farmers in trouble, but they're also sending a little cash along with the good thoughts this year.
The Diocese of Springfield, which covers 28 counties, is offering interest-free loans of up to $2,000 to area farmers, regardless of religious affiliation.
"We would like to (give) some generous help which comes from the same heart that our prayers come from," says Bishop Daniel Ryan, who heads the diocese.
Applications will be accepted starting next month for the 1989 loan program, dubbed Project Isidore for the patron saint of farmers. For the 1988 growing season, the program's first, about 40 loans averaging $1,000 were made. "The purpose of the project is to provide funds for farmers who are hurting, funds which would help them not to turn away foreclosure on their properties, I'm sorry to say, but which would give them some money for seed or fertilizer or important things like that," Ryan said.
Diocesan officials say the small loans won't save failing farms but might make a difference for farmers who need help.
"We just don't have the availability of funds to stave off these enormous problems which face our farmers," Ryan said, "but we wanted in a realistic way to help them with some items with which we could be of help."
The loans are intended to help farmers with spring planting needs for fuel, seed, feed, fertilizer and chemicals.
Ryan said the money for the program was not from the collection plate but from donors who have chosen to remain anonymous.