Perhaps you saw the announcement in our eBulletin or on the homepage: “NCRLC celebrates its 90th anniversary, changes name to Catholic Rural Life.”
It’s not so much a name change as a sharper focus on our ministry to rural life, whether across the United States and in other parts of the world, based on the principles of Catholic social teaching.
Jim Ennis, our executive director, explained it like this: “We are Catholic, we serve rural communities, and we address rural life concerns.”
The traditional use of “National” and “Conference” was befitting of a Catholic organization back in the 1920s when we got started. At some point, the name got collapsed into the acronym NCRLC for brevity’s sake. But as we seek to attract new members and reach out to a broader network of rural advocates, it made sense to present ourselves as Catholic Rural Life. That was the sentiment expressed by our current Board members in a recent meeting.
As we say in the press release about our name change: “Catholic Rural Life has always been at the heart of who we are, so we are making the change to our name to reflect that reality. It is a subtle, but important change.”
We’ll see how our network members and others take to that. I dare say we will begin to abbreviate our trimmed name to “CRL” — which I guess is to be expected in our fast-pace digital world of clipped communications!
Looking Ahead in Our Ongoing Endeavors
Beyond the name change, we are planning a few interesting events in honor of the 90th anniversary year as part of our efforts to keep Catholic Rural Life a thoughtful and engaged player in the world of agriculture, food and the environment.
> Catholic Social Ministry Gathering: Feb. 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.
In conjunction with this annual gathering of Catholic social ministry advocates, we will host a lunch and seminar on Sunday, Feb. 2, from 12 noon to 2:30 pm. This gives us an opportunity to meet with members and others from around the country and present our program work for the year. This is likely to include an introductory presentation about a project we’re launching called “Faith, Food and Environment”. More about this below.
> Catholic Rural Life Celebration: Oct. 3-4, 2014 in Des Moines, IA.
We use to host this gathering in years past: A two-day national conference with plenty of presenters and workshops, not to mention a banquet dinner. Program details will be forthcoming, but we can say that keynote speakers will be Most Rev. Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL, and Most Rev. Paul D. Etienne, Bishop of the Diocese of Cheyenne, WY. For now, please save the date — and stay tuned for more details in the new year.
> Faith, Food, and Environment Symposium: Nov. 12-14, 2014 in St. Paul, MN.
This is the project I referred to above. In partnership with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in Rome, and in association with Farmers Union members in the Upper Midwest, this symposium is the first of a series of events to lay out a “vocational guide” for leaders involved in food and agriculture.
More about “Faith, Food and the Environment”
This initiative seeks to replicate a publication of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace called “The Vocation of the Business Leader” – but to do so with Agricultural Leaders in mind. The Business Leader publication was co-published by the Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought of the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. We’ll be consulting with them in our attempt to develop a vocational reflection for farmers and others involved in food production.
The premise here is that the Church in a unique position to bring people together from the many divergent practices of agriculture and food production with an eye toward the common good. The field of food and agriculture could benefit from our Christian faith perspective and our understanding of the dignity of the human person.
The end-purpose of this project is to develop a series of resources exploring how Christian faith informs and speaks meaningfully to all people of good will regarding agricultural practices, hunger issues, and environmental concerns. Catholic Rural Life will coordinate this by reviewing current perspectives and convening a couple symposiums with farm leaders, land conservationists, nutritionists and even theologians.
Seeking Your Interest & Involvement
This project embraces all three goals of our mission: 1) food and agriculture concerns, 2) development of future pastors and lay leaders, and 3) sustainable stewardship of creation. We are excited as this project gets underway, and we hope you follow along as it takes shape in the coming months.
On that note, you can count on more blog postings to be forthcoming about Faith, Food and Environment. As we sharpen our focus on how ethical principles, defined by our faith tradition, can guide actions and practices when it comes to food production and environmental care, we’ll be welcoming your reactions and comments. So please join us on this journey!