It’s the day after Christmas – feast of St. Stephen – and we hope everyone had a joyous time over Christmas with family and friends. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, I hope you found a quiet moment to catch your breath and express thanks to God for all we received during the year. As this year ends, we may be thankful for those in our lives who we can rely on, even as we may feel heartache and loss in what we must endure in our earthly lives.
For farm families, we certainly hope they had a year of successful crops or livestock production. Let us express our deep gratitude that we live in a part of the world where food is plentiful and life is relatively safe. This time of year always seems most appropriate to give thanks for all that we have been given.
Christmas is also a good time to remember the foundations of our faith and how it all began more than 2000 years ago. Our faith is a light that guides us in how we should live our lives, how we should treat both neighbors and strangers, and how we should care for creation. Let us pray that whatever we do in the new year, we help make the world a better place. During these days of the Christmas season, let us reflect on our faith and how we can live more fully throughout our time on earth.
Now onto our plans for the year here at Catholic Rural Life!
Over the month of December, we’ve been working on our next magazine issue. This will be coming out by the end of January and will present some of our upcoming projects and programs for the year. Although Catholic Rural Life turned 90 as a national organization this past November, we realize we need to keep ourselves fresh and innovative each new year.
Of course, we’ll still be pushing for a fair and just Farm Bill. The new bill should have been reauthorized by now, but Congress is still working through details on commodity crop, nutrition and conservation programs. We expect their negotiations to be resolved by mid-January and a new bill passed soon.
Our attention will then turn more fully to the recent call by Pope Francis for a worldwide campaign to address hunger and poverty. It is called “One Human Family, Food for All” and goes beyond the fact that the world can produce sufficient food for everyone. In truth, we need a better way to ensure everyone actually benefits from that abundance. This global campaign by Caritas Internationalis seeks to also raise awareness that hunger can be eliminated by 2025 if resources are shared.
As Pope Francis said at the launching of the global campaign: “The Gospel shows us the way. Have faith in the providence of the Lord and share your daily bread without wasting it.”
Catholic Rural Life is joining his call for this “wave of solidarity” and will promote the agriculture and food policies to help all of us act as one human family and strive to ensure food for all.
International Year of Family Farming
Besides the Caritas campaign, there is another global movement underway this coming year: 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming. This follows from a devoted effort to by an international coalition of 360 groups led by the World Rural Forum (www.familyfarmingcampaign.net/) to sound the trumpet for family farms. Throughout 2014, this coalition of groups is committed to holding public events, increasing media coverage and raising awareness – all to the purpose of better public policies for family farmers.
The ultimate goal of this campaign is to reposition family farming at the center of agricultural, environmental and social policies in national agendas. This includes not only the Global South, but the industrialized North as well. Their strategy is to identify gaps and highlight opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development when it comes to the primary sector of agriculture.
Finally, you’ll be hearing much more about our Faith, Food and Environment project (as we are currently calling it). This is an attempt to apply the principles of our faith tradition to practice of agriculture, ensuring that how we grow food ultimately benefits the least among us. We believe that agriculture must be more than just meeting global market demand: the practice of agriculture must also be good for farm families, rural communities, the environment, and the health of us all.
So, we’ll be keeping our members and network informed about how this “vocational guide” comes about over the coming year. It will be a participatory effort with members of Farmers Union in various states as well as agricultural experts, researchers and theologians. We also intend to work with faith partners overseas, so this will be a major undertaking for us.
Stay tuned during 2014!