“Sowing Seeds of Hope in a Distracted World”: Presentation by Jim Ennis
Presentation by Jim Ennis (left), keynote speaker at the 2012 Bishop Lucker Lecture on Sunday evening, March 18, at St. Catherine’s Church in Redwood Falls, Minn.
(Lecture series sponsored annually by the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota)
NEW ULM – Rural life in the United States has undergone drastic changes in the last 50 years. Bishop John M. LeVoir, fourth bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, has seen this during his three-and-one-half years of ministry in the diocese.
“Rural dioceses like New Ulm,” he said, “are facing important issues, such as increasing farm sizes, a declining and aging population, an increasing number of immigrants, a priest shortage, and declining Mass attendance.”
Is there hope for rural life in the United States?
Jim Ennis, NCRLC executive director, thinks so. The National Catholic Rural Life Conference has addressed the social challenges facing rural communities and sought to improve those conditions since our founding in 1923. Working closely with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, NCRLC carries out its mission through educational, legislative, and grassroots efforts.
Bishop LeVoir invited Ennis to speak at the ninth annual Bishop Lucker Lecture, which was held on Sunday evening, March 18, at the Church of St. Catherine in Redwood Falls, Minn. “Jim is very committed to enhancing Catholic rural life and applying Christian principles to farming issues,” Bishop LeVoir remarked.
The Catholic Church has always had an interest in agriculture and rural life, Ennis said, because what agriculture produces – food – is essential to everyone. “Food sustains life itself; it’s just not another product,” Ennis said. “For many, farming is a calling.” The Church believes there is a special calling and also a moral responsibility to ensure that food is available to all.
Chris Loetscher, director of the Office of Social Concerns for the Diocese of New Ulm, agrees with Ennis and is supportive of the work the NCRLC is doing to transform rural life in the United States. “There are many things about the (current) food production system that are unjust and that need transformation,” Loetscher said.
NCRLC is an organization whose mission is to show that the Church is interested, engaged, and has something to say on agriculture and food issues.
In his March 18th talk on “Sowing Seeds of Hope in a Distracted World,” Ennis outlined some of the challenges that rural communities are facing and how ordinary, everyday Catholics can respond to them. In particular, he focused on a challenge that all persons face, whether they live in New York City or in New Ulm: distraction.
Distraction is “a symptom of a troubled soul,” Ennis said. “It’s an ancient problem” that “has different manifestations in our modern world.” While television and the Internet are obvious culprits, Ennis said his interactions with rural communities across the United States have revealed to him other offenders: comparing one’s life to the lives of others; wondering whether one’s town and parish community will survive another five years; engaging in hard, physical labor day after day.
Beyond simply identifying these distractions, Ennis outlined concrete ways people can respond to them. “My hope is that participants will be inspired and encouraged to explore their Catholic faith a little more,” Ennis said, “and will take away some concrete stories that they can apply to their own situations.”
(The information above was adapted from an article by Sam Patet, writing in The Prairie Catholic, periodic newspaper of the Diocese of New Ulm, prior to the event.)