Priest clings to farming roots
By Sandy Bond
Fashions may come and fashions may go, but a great pair of cowboy boots, for this former farm boy, will always be in style, even while preaching the word of the Lord and distributing Holy Communion. Father Tom Clement has been a mission priest serving the parishes of St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Herreid, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Selby, and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Eureka since 2010.
The next to the youngest born to the late Louis and Dolores, Tom and his nine siblings were born on a dairy and small grain farm in Polo. He attended St. Laborious, a Catholic school in Polo, through the second grade. The family discontinued farming when their grandfather died and the family moved into the town of Orient where Louis got a job in a grain elevator. Tom graduated from Faulkton High School in 1982. He was uncertain about his future, but found himself drawn to the priesthood by the mentorship of Rev. Roger Geditz, his parish priest.
“He was very involved in his parishioners lives,” he said, “I recall that he challenged me, in a good way.”
Tom enlisted in the U.S. Air Force for a four-year hitch, with telecommunications as his specialty. He served in Texas, Greece, the Island of Sardinia just off Italy, and ended up at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.
“We trained on the old teletype machines,” he said.
Several spiritual leaders in the U.S. Air Force also were his mentors.
“There was this nagging question that wouldn’t go away,” he said, “and I received an invitation while in the Air Force. So I went to the seminary to discern it more seriously.”
After being honorably discharged from the Air Force, the G.I. Bill helped offset some expenses to attend college at St. Mary’s University in Winona, Minn. He received his degree in theology in 1995.
Tom’s first assignment by the Bishop of the Diocese of Sioux Falls was as an associate priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Aberdeen, where he served for three years. He served as a mission priest at All Saints of Mellette, Sacred Heart of Chelsea, and St. Mary at Zell for a year before being assigned to Holy Cross in Ipswich and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Leola for six years. His next was as chaplain of the Carmelite Monastery and clustered parishes of St. Mary in Alexandria, and St. Martin of Emery for five years. In 2010, he was assigned as a mission priest in this area.
“I kind of like cooking, when I have the time,” he said. “It’s fun to do your own thing and allows me to be creative. Serving three parishes keeps me pretty busy and reheating saves a lot of time. It’s usually pretty good, too!”
And although most people distain leftovers, “I kind of like them,” he said.
From of family of 10 children, when his mother was busy with volunteering at various functions, the first one home took the initiative to “get things started.”
“My dad’s willingness to cook Sunday dinner when we were growing up was my inspiration for cooking,” he said. “I think he really enjoyed it, plus it gave mom little bit of a break!”
His worst cooking experience was when he was in high school.
“I was baking coffee cake for a treat on Sunday morning,” he said. “I grabbed the powdered sugar container instead of the flour. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out. Kind of watery!”
“If I hadn’t received a call to become a priest, I believe I would have wanted to farm,” he said. “Even after dad left farming and we moved into town, I worked for several area farmers during the summer as a field worker.”
The only thing he wasn’t asked to do was drive the tractor that pulled the corn cultivator.
“I just wasn’t precise enough,” he said, “I usually ended up digging up the corn!”
Tom belongs to the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Foresters, and the American Legion. He has two cats, a Calico named Sheba and an orange tabby named Gabriel.
He enjoys deer and pheasant hunting, throwing a line in the water, and spending time with his brothers and sisters and their families.
He cultivates a few tomato plants to enhance his meals and also some flowers to enhance the rectory in Herreid.
“I could see myself doing more of it,” he said.
Camping allows him to relax and read a good book including rereading the letters of St. Paul and short stories by Flannery Connor. He also enjoys listening to ballads by the late Johnny Cash and John Denver, and concedes that he is a novice guitarist, in his own right.
FATHER TOM CLEMENT’S RECIPES
Mandarin Orange Salad
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 small bag slivered almonds
1 large can mandarin oranges (drained)
1 head lettuce
1 cup celery (chopped)
Green onion (chopped)
Heat sugar and almonds on medium to medium-high heat, stirring. Mix ingredients for dressing. Add dressing and oranges to salad just before serving.
1 1/2 lbs. hamburger
1/2 cup milk
1/2 sleeve of crackers (crushed)
Season to taste. Put into baking dish and top with ketchup. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
1 can whole corn (drained)
1 can cream style corn
1 cup broken spaghetti
2 cups or more of cubed Velveeta cheese
3/4 cup milk
Combine and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Grandma’s Cutout Cookies
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup or so butter
2 eggs (save white of 1 egg for later use)
1 cup sour cream
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
and enough flour to make a soft dough
Chill dough in refrigerator and roll out and cut. Dip top of cut cookie into the saved egg white and dip again into a plate of sugar. Bake cookies at 375 until done (do not over-bake, they should not be dark.)