The Catholic Committee of Appalachia presented its annual Bishop Sullivan Justice and Peace and Federation of Communities in Service (FOCIS) awards at its 46th annual gathering September 10, 2016 in Ravenna, Kentucky. The Bishop Sullivan and FOCIS awards recognize individuals and organizations, respectively, whose tireless work for justice in the region exemplifies the vision of the Appalachian pastorals and Catholic social teaching. The recipients of each year’s awards typically hail from the state where that year’s annual gathering is held.
This year’s Bishop Sullivan award was presented to two Kentucky priests widely known for their justice work. Jesuit Fr. Al Fritsch is a nationally known writer and activist and a giant in the church in Appalachia. Fritsch has been associated with CCA from its founding. He was instrumental in the development of CCA’s first pastoral letter, “This Land is Home to Me,” founded the non-profit Appalachia – Science in the Public Interest, and started the well-regarded website Earth Healing, which began to offer daily meditations, homilies, and videos on the care of creation well before it became popular in church circles. Fritsch is the author of many books, including Down to Earth Spirituality, Eco-Church, Ecotourism in Appalachia, Jesus Christ Activist, and Appalachian Water Reflections. He still serves in parishes in eastern Kentucky and his life’s work continues to inspire many young activists.
Fr. John Rausch has lived and served in Appalachia with Glenmary Home Missioners and CCA for more than 40 years promoting justice and peace, with special focus in recent years on mountaintop removal coal mining and other environmental issues. John has also been on the front lines of many protests and demonstrations advocating for workers, and in doing so shows that there need not be a conflict in promoting the dignity of workers and the dignity of Earth. His writing has appeared in local and national media, and he recently appeared in a segment on the Al-Jazeera network. Rausch served as Executive Director of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia from 2005-2013. His devotion to Appalachia and its people is evidenced by his long commitment in working to improve the lives of others and raising consciousness among people in other parts of the country.
The 2016 FOCIS Award went to the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). Since 1976, MACED has partnered with local people to build upon the strengths of Kentucky and Central Appalachia, creating alternatives and striving to make our communities better places to live. MACED’s work emphasizes three areas: 1) strengthening the energy and forestry sectors, 2) promoting entrepreneurship and homegrown development, and 3) influencing Kentucky’s economic policy and advancing Appalachian transition.
The Bishop Sullivan Award is named for the late Walter Sullivan, former Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond and former Bishop Liaison of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia. The FOCIS Award is named for the Federation of Communities in Service, a community development organization founded in 1967 by former Glenmary sisters, many of whom were some of the founding members of CCA.