The Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) joins Glenmary Home Missioners in congratulating Fr. Les Schmidt as he celebrates 60 years as a Glenmarian this year. Father Les is a founding member of CCA, was instrumental in the development of the original Appalachian pastorals This Land is Home to Me and At Home in the Web of Life, as well as CCA’s 2015 “People’s Pastoral” The Telling Takes Us Home. He now serves on CCA’s Advisory Board.
Glenmary Challenge Magazine reports:
Glenmary Father Les Schmidt spent time early in his Glenmary career working as an associate and substitute pastor, but his calling has been primarily to serve as a regional worker, advocating justice for the marginalized.
While he celebrates 60 years as a Glenmarian this year, Father Les has spent nearly 50 of them as a regional worker, most often based in Big Stone Gap, Va. Father Les has been active on the Catholic Committee of Appalachia and the Catholic Committee of the South. Though 82, Father Les is still active, addressing the issue of for-profit prisons, the need for immigration reform and other matters.
One of only a few Glenmarians who grew up in a Glenmary mission (he was a member of Holy Trinity in West Union, Ohio), Father Les continues to be an advocate for Christ’s kingdom on Earth.
“Following Pope Francis, my deepest hope is that we move from the world of fear and judgement, to one of grace and mercy,” he said.
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has released a statement opposing Congress’ recent reversal of the Stream Protection Rule which would have offered greater protections to waterways in proximity to surface mine sites and would have encouraged more adequate reclamation of mined land. The entire statement, which was approved by the CCA Board of Directors, can be read here.
The North Carolina Chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia (CCA) has issued a statement of concern regarding the adequacy of local church leadership. Titled “Statement of Concern on Clericalism from Appalachian Catholics in the Smoky Mountain Region,” the statement identifies clericalism, the overemphasis of the power of the priesthood and hierarchy, as a pervasive problem in the region and in the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. The Chapter, along with the CCA central office in Spencer, West Virginia, made the statement available to media earlier this month.
The statement is based on negative experiences of lay Catholics in the region in their interactions with parish priests, including inadequate pastoral care of the dying and demeaning attitudes toward Catholics from diverse local cultures. The Chapter opted to share these concerns with the media after more than two years of attempts to address the issues with the bishop of the Charlotte Diocese, who the chapter says has been unwilling to meet with the people.
The Chapter statement calls on the region’s bishops to acknowledge these problems and engage in dialogue with the people to work toward creative solutions, and offers prayers for a “change of hearts, minds, and pastoral practice,” that the region’s priests and bishops “would imitate more strongly the example of Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.”
CCA-NC’s statement can be read in its entirety here. A recent article in National Catholic Reporter focuses on this issue in North Carolina and features the CCA-NC statement.
Lexington Bishop John Stowe, who serves as Bishop Liaison for the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, issued a statement on the Trump administration’s recent executive order on immigration. The statement, published on January 30, 2017, reads as follows:
Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv., Bishop of Lexington, denounces the president’s executive order halting the admission of refugees who are fleeing persecution and the threat of death in their home countries. The president’s ban on Syrian refugees is particularly troubling as the Syrian refugees are part of a humanitarian crisis not of their own making. Continue reading
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia celebrates the first anniversary of the People’s Pastoral, The Telling Takes Us Home! Help us celebrate by sharing the image above on social media, and by spreading the word about the document!
An abridged version of the Pastoral is coming in early 2017, and we are excited to share it with you!
The ongoing indigenous-led protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota is perhaps the largest and most diverse tribal action in a century or more. Standing Rock has captivated the attention of people throughout the world, including people of diverse faiths who have joined the prayerful struggle not only for the protection of water but for indigenous sovereignty.
A number of CCA members and friends have been active on this issue, and have even traveled to be part of the prayer camp there. Former Board member Franciscan Sister Ann Quinn was among a number of Catholic sisters traveling to Standing Rock from Montana where she now lives and works. And our friend Nic Cochran, a Catholic Worker from Wheeling, is now back at Standing Rock for a second period of time.
As Nic stated in an interview posted at Ignatian Solidarity Network,
Being there as a Catholic is important to me. The more Catholics that are there I think is important as well, [in order] to say we know that we have been a part of that oppression. […] We have an obligation to be a loving presence. […] If you can’t come or provide material support, pray. Everyone can pray.
Another thing we can do is continually learn more about the histories of indigenous peoples and their ongoing struggles with settler colonial populations, as well as how differing worldviews and spiritualities are part of this story of both injustice and liberation. For several years now, CCA has co-sponsored a retreat on Cherokee spirituality, held each March in Cherokee, NC. This year’s retreat, Walking our Spiritual Paths: An Introduction to the Spirituality of the Cherokee People, is March 7-12, 2017. Organized by Mary Herr and Fr. John Rausch and co-sponsored by Appalachian Ministries Education Resource Center (AMERC), this five day retreat offers participants the opportunity to learn about the spirituality and worldview of the Cherokee People with Native American presenters. For more information on the retreat, click here.
The Catholic Committee of Appalachia congratulates our friend Danny Swan, co-founder of Wheeling, WV’s Grow Ohio Valley (GOV), for his receipt of the Ignatian Solidarity Network‘s 2016 Moira Erin O’Donnell Emerging Leaders for Justice Award. The O’Donnell Award honors young adults who have received an undergraduate degree from a U.S. Jesuit university and demonstrated significant social justice leadership in their communities. Danny and two additional awardees were honored at the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice on November 13, 2016.
From ISN’s blog:
“In response to Danny’s vision and leadership,” explains Michael Iafrate, Co-coordinator of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, “GOV is transforming how its community thinks about, grows, and distributes food,” modeling integrated city revitalization efforts and local food economy transformation. “But this is more than yet another version of the hip ‘eat local’ trend,” continues Iafrate. “GOV’s mission is rooted in Danny’s spirituality of solidarity with the marginalized—including the suffering Earth—which was shaped through his Jesuit education and by his exposure to the pastoral letters of the Appalachian Catholic bishops, ‘This Land is Home to Me’ and ‘At Home in the Web of Life’.”
The work of Grow Ohio Valley was highlighted in CCA’s 2015 “People’s Pastoral” The Telling Takes Us Home, and Danny was one of several readers who offered helpful comments and insights for the pastoral’s material on food justice in the region.
Read more about Danny, Grow Ohio Valley, and the other award winners here.
This weekend, several Catholic dioceses across the country will participate in the second triennial collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services (AMS). This non-territorial diocese, founded in the 1985 by Pope John Paul II, provides pastoral services to members of the United States military stationed across the world.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in West Virginia is one of several dioceses participating in this collection. The West Virginia Chapter of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia has serious reservations about our diocese’s formal support of this collection, and has issued a statement (PDF version) calling for the pastors and parishioners to disregard this diocesan request and to voice their disagreement with the collection.
Additionally, parishioners can print this slip from their computers to place in the collection basket to make known their disagreement with the collection.
Read the entire WV Chapter statement here (PDF).
Catholic Committee of Appalachia’s Bishop Liaison, Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, has written an important piece on this year’s presidential election in the Lexington diocesan paper, Crossroads. Here is an excerpt:
My mailbox has been flooded lately with very sincere…letters about the need for the church to be more vocal on pro-life issues in the election. The problem with the content of this mail is that it is more anti-abortion than it is pro-life. It does not see the preservation of the environment or the interrelationship of all life, as articulated so well in ‘Laudato Si,’ as a value to be brought to the ballot box. It does not see that racism and discrimination against groups of people based on ethnicity or religion are not pro-life positions. Is it really pro-life to consider the Second Amendment as an absolute good, regardless of how many lives are tragically ended? Is it pro-life to promote policies that cut social services that assist families headed by the working poor, in order to make more wealth for the most wealthy? Is it pro-life to promote war as a solution and speak cavalierly about the use of nuclear weapons? Is it pro-life to speak of walls built to keep out human beings whose labor is needed and who need to provide for their families?
Sadly, the Democratic Party has gone further than ever in its insistence that abortion on demand is a right and even advocates the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the government from paying for most abortion procedures. The once small but vocal group of pro-life Democrats is all but silenced. We must denounce this callous disregard for the sanctity of unborn human life. There are also grave concerns about how a Democratic administration would further the enforcement of practices which do not respect the consciences of people for whom practices, e.g., paying for birth control, accommodating same-sex marriages, are a violation of their beliefs.
But it must also be said that while the Republican Party platform contains an anti-abortion plank, which we applaud, the current Republican presidential nominee has been a life-long abortion supporter and Planned Parenthood enthusiast. His remarks about people from Mexico, about Muslims, about women, and the incorporation of blatantly racist “alt-right” groups into his campaign should be causes for serious concern.
CCA is thankful for Bishop Stowe’s clear thinking and courage in a time when many church leaders have remained silent about this disturbing election cycle. Read the entire article on page 2 of Crossroads.
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