CRL was excited to participate in this year’s CSMG where Catholic organizations from around the country gathered to explore how Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, applies in rural communities around the county. Five hundred participants were expected for the conference, but the timing of the storm cut the attendance in half.
CRL hosted a pre-gathering luncheon panel discussion on Laudato Si in the Countryside. Participants learned and shared about personal ecological conversion. Professor John Cuddeback, Professor of Philosophy at Christendom College and family farmer (he raises hogs on his farm), suggested that the most important message of the day, and perhaps of Laudato Si’, was that we each need to evaluate our own personal stewardship to the land and the environment. Katelyn Roedner Sutter, Director of Environmental Justice Program for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton in California’s San Joaquin Valley, shared specific examples of some successful initiatives working with parishes in the central valley of California. All left encouraged and energized to communicate the principles of Laudato Si’ in their respective dioceses.
Most Reverend Nelson Perez was the initial keynote speaker and one of the highlights of the conference. He began by encouraging the audience to recall an encounter with Christ and reflect on how it impacted them and what they learned from the experience. He inspired the group by reminding us that we each offer an encounter with Christ to all with whom we come into contact.
On Sunday, a luncheon discussion facilitated by Jonathan Reyes, Executive Director of the Justice, Peace, and Human Development Department at the USCCB included Monsignor Ray East, Pastor of St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Washington DC and best-selling author and columnist, David Brooks. This was a provocative and inspiring conversation covering the upcoming election, poverty, immigration, race relations, and personal conversion. The speakers challenged us to rise above partisan politics and to share the love and mercy of God with one another, especially seek to develop relationships with those who do not look like ourselves.