Catholic Rural Life Today

Since its inception over 93 years ago, Catholic Rural Life has been focused on the needs of the faithful in the American countryside.  In fact, it is the only Catholic organization in the country to do so.

Catholic Rural Life applies the teaching of Jesus Christ for the social, economic, and spiritual development of rural America; strengthening and sustaining Catholic life by developing leaders in rural communities.

But the Church in rural America is at a critical juncture, with many challenges facing those who labor on behalf of Christ.

Working closely with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and our nationwide network of 4300 leaders, Catholic Rural Life is poised to expand its programs addressing these challenges, and continue its work inspiring, educating, and advocating on behalf of rural Catholics.

We can’t do it without your support.  Help us renew the Faith in rural America.


Crisis in Rural America

Agriculture & Food

The Church has always been a champion of farmers and ranchers affirming the unique vocation of the men and women involved in the agriculture industry who provide food for our tables and for the world. But there are growing concerns about:

  • the adverse impact of unsustainable farming practices on the land and rural communities
  • unethical treatment of many workers in the food industry
  • a food system that does not meet the needs of the poor and vulnerable

There are very few programs in the Church today focused on renewing the faith of rural Catholics and equipping leaders with skills to lead their peers to a deeper relationship with Christ and His Church.

Rural Communities

The Church in rural America is at a critical juncture with many challenges facing those who labor on behalf of Christ—both religious and laypersons—to the nearly 50 million people residing in rural communities.

These challenges include:

  • A growing number of priests oversee multiple parishes and large geography
  • Lack of financial and human resources to support outreach and discipleship efforts
  • High poverty rates in many rural communities

CRL is the only national Catholic organization focused on these concerns.

The Goal: $2.5 Million. Where Will It Go?

Ethical Food and Agriculture: $400,000

The Program Area will expand and address:

  • the vocation of the agricultural leader
  • food security and poverty concerns
  • fair treatment of farmworkers and food workers
  • sustainable agriculture
  • biotechnology in agriculture
  • animal welfare

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-10-15-28-amBy addressing these critical issues, the Program Area will help deepen our understanding of Catholic teaching, the human person, the high vocation of the agricultural worker—farmer, rancher, farmworker, food worker, researcher, food processing executive, seed company employee, etc.—and the ethical dimensions and responsibilities we have as children of God.

Catholic Rural Life will train and equip a network of thousands of lay and religious leaders across the country and internationally with knowledge to develop a sustainable future, where no one is lacking food or work and fundamental resources may be preserved as universal rights.

CRL seeks to raise $400,000 to expand and sustain advocacy for ethical agriculture, equipping leaders in the food industry to apply their faith to their work.

Rural Ministry and Outreach: $1,300,000

The Program Area will expand:

  • Equipping lay men and women to become small group leaders in rural communities
  • Teaching and preparing future priests for ministry in rural communities
  • Outreach to rural communities to address rural poverty

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-10-22-13-amCRL’s lay leadership program, specifically designed for parishes in rural communities, trains and equips Catholics to lead small groups through the Holy Scriptures, Papal Encyclicals, and the Catechism. The goal of this program is to revitalize the faith of Catholics in rural America in the spirit of the New Evangelization.

CRL’s week-long Rural Ministry Practicum teaches and trains future pastors through a combination of classroom instruction with field trips to farms.  Seminarians are given the opportunity to have discussions with rural experts to better understand the culture and the issues faced in rural ministry. CRL will expand the program nationally to other Catholic seminaries to impact hundreds of future pastors each year.

Rural communities are often challenged by the lack of resources, human and financial, to address the problems facing parishes and communities. CRL will expand its outreach efforts to Native American and Latino communities throughout the US to develop lay leaders equipped to serve and address the social justice concerns in their communities.

CRL seeks to raise $1.3 million to expand and sustain its capacity to train and inspire thousands of leaders in rural dioceses and parishes around the country.

Current Activities and Programs: $800,000

Continued Support for CRL’s Current Programs and Activities:

  • Informative and inspiring quarterly magazine
  • weekly e-bulletin
  • spiritual materials designed for parish and home use
  • Rural Life Celebration Guides and support
  • Workshops and training
  • Continuing support for Life in Christ leaders

Tillers of the Earth Committee

Most Reverend Paul D. Etienne

Archbishop of the Diocese of Anchorage, Alaska

Most Reverend Michael Warfel

Bishop of Great Falls-Billings, Montana

Reverend Gregory Mastey

Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota

Mr. James F. Ennis

Executive Director, CRL, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Mrs. Polly Kolstad

Freelance writer, Great Falls, Montana

Mrs. Peggy Louiselle

Director of Development, Catholic Rural Life

Mr. Tom Murphy

Retired, Sylvan Grove, Kansas

Mr. Ron Rosmann

Rosmann Family Farms; Harlan, Iowa

Mr. Thomas Ryan

Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minnesota

Dr. Christopher Thompson

Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, St. Paul, Minnesota

Mr. Joseph Towalski

Director of Communications, Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota

Prayer for the Campaign

by Archbishop Paul D. Etienne, Archbishop of Anchorage, AK and CRL President

God our Father, by the grace of your Son and the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, bless the work of Catholic Rural Life.

As we enter into a time of growth, grant prosperity to our rural communities and all those who make their living from the land. As we seek to promote the Gospel and equip the next generation of rural leaders, grant us wisdom and perseverance.

Bless and grow our membership and guide those whom you have blessed, to be generous in support of our mission and the Sowing Seeds Campaign.

We ask all of this in Jesus' name, through the intercessions of Saints Isidore and Maria,


Pledge or One-Time Gift


Appreciated stock or another appreciated asset (grain, cattle, etc.)

Make CRL a beneficiary of your SEP IRA or life insurance policy

A gift of $1,000 or more to the Sowing Seeds campaign will entitle you to a Lifetime Membership to CRL

Where We Are With Our Goal
$2,456,471 out of $2,500,000

Words From Our Donors

“As a lifetime advocate of the family farm and a 65-year member of CRL I wish to leave a final gift (to Sowing Seeds).  Slowly we are achieving more sustainability as people are becoming conscious of eating healthy food.  May God bless the campaign of Sowing Seeds.”  –a long-time member of CRL

“I have been a member of Catholic Rural Life for many years…What you are doing is badly needed in many rural communities.  You have my support and I pray that many others will have the ability to support CRL financially.”   —a long time member

“My wife and I have long admired the work that you do, and it is time that we become members and support you.  Blessings.”  — a new member

“I am thrilled to find a Catholic organization that aligns so well with our farm philosophy! Keep up the good work!”  –a new CRL member

“Dear CRL – I wish I could give more. I am 92 and remember my father sending money to CRL. Thank you for all you are doing to support farm life. –a second generation long-time member

CRL Impact

“Through the steadfast efforts of CRL thousands of lives have been positively impacted due to the valuable information that they have helped to promote and share about rural communities.”  –a newly ordained priest and former participant in the Rural Life Practicum 

I enjoy reading Catholic Rural Life publications and they have influenced my homilies.  They also help me to see what I want to do as a priest in a rural area.”  –a rural priest in southern Minnesota

“We appreciate the information that is relevant to and connected with farming and agricultural communities, here as well as around the world. This perspective is valuable.  Thank you.” –a long-time member of CRL

“We had been praying for 5 years for something like this (the Life in Christ program), but we didn’t know what to do. The training and the material have shown us how to lead other parishioners into a deeper relationship with Christ. Thank you!” — a lay parishioner in the Life in Christ program in the Diocese of Sioux Falls

“I just read the Vocation of the Agricultural Leader document. It brought tears to my eyes. This is what our farmers need to hear in our rural communities. The farmers I work with do not feel the Church is supporting them! Thank you for publishing this document.” — a rural priest in Central Wisconsin