People’s Pastoral Discussion Guide Now Available

DiscussionGuideOur tradition of Appalachian pastoral letters is about far more than simply the promulgation of more church documents. We believe our three pastoral letters—”This Land is Home to Me” (1975), “At Home in the Web of Life” (1995), and “The Telling Takes Us Home” (2015)—are words that are alive, expressing the life of the Spirit in our region and urging us to prophetic action. To that end, we believe the pastorals should not only be read and reflected upon but discussed among the various communities where we find ourselves.

CCA’s People’s Pastoral Committee has been working to develop a variety of discussion resources for “The Telling Takes Us Home” for different types of groups. The first is a single page set of discussion questions to introduce and discuss major themes from the pastoral. Thank you to Elizabeth Nawrocki, Beth Collins, and Jessica Wrobleski for your work on early versions of this guide, and Wheeling Jesuit University’s Appalachian Institute for using an earlier draft in a summer discussion series as a “pilot” for this important resource.

Please let us know about your experience using this resource in your community. We anticipate further revisions as we receive feedback!

Download: Discussion Guide for “The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us” (PDF)

More discussion resources for all of the Appalachian pastoral letters are forthcoming.

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Play Inspired by the People’s Pastoral Debuts This Sunday in Abingdon, VA

though the mountainsWhen the People’s Pastoral was first conceived, CCA members envisioned that the pastoral’s message would find expression beyond a single document. We imagined that the pastoral’s voices could potentially be lifted up in a variety of other ways, including poetry, visual art, exhibits, songs, dance, storytelling, conferences, retreats, academic papers, educational programs, rituals, and prayers.

Early in the process of the pastoral’s development, we discussed the possibility of a theatrical production with Catherine Bush, house playwright at Barter Theater in Abingdon, VA. CCA is pleased to share that Catherine’s play, Though the Mountains May Fall, inspired by the voices of the pastoral, will make its debut in a reading at the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights at Barter Theater this Sunday.

Here is the synopsis of the play:

The Ida May Combs Medical Clinic in Mud Creek, KY is now open for business– thanks to the efforts of local priest Fr. Timothy Ryan. But before Fr. Timothy can count his blessings, things in Mud Creek begin to unravel; a mysterious stomach virus sweeps the region, a civil-right’s dispute breaks out in town, and Fr. Timothy’s mentally ill brother shows up on his doorstep. As he struggles to overcome the demons of his past in order to save his friends and community, Fr. Timothy discovers that being present is sometimes the best gift one can give. The fourth installment of the Mud Creek series by Barter’s Resident Playwright.

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Prophetic Words from Our Bishop Liaison

stoweCCA is pleased to highlight two pieces of recent writing from our Bishop Liaison, John Stowe, OFM, Conv., Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky.

Writing in the Lexington Herald-Leader at the end of July, Stowe criticized Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed changes to the state’s Medicaid program, which include “an increase of premiums, cost-sharing charges and a lock-out period” which would create “significant barriers to obtaining coverage or seeing a doctor, much less a dentist or eye doctor.”

Stowe writes:

State budgets reveal the values of the governing administration; they should also reveal the values of the people. Disregard for the vulnerable weakens the common good. A genuine reform of health care in Kentucky should result in health care that is accessible and affordable for all, and not place more restrictions on accessing it. The mere complexity of the proposed plan will create new barriers to care precisely when the need is to continue expanding access.

And last week, Bishop John offered a series of reflections on mercy to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men at their assembly in Columbus, Ohio. The Conference is the association of the leaders of vowed men’s religious communities in the United States. As noted by Francis DeBernardo of New Ways Ministry, Stowe’s opening reflection contained many positive references to LGBT people and issues. Among his reflections, Stowe said:

“Let everything the Church says and does be seen as merciful.” I think bishops need some help to know how—and I think I am in the midst of a group who has the capacity to model this. For every blunt statement of doctrine and categorical condemnation uttered by the church, may religious men be willing to stand with the sinners and gently walk with them on the path of conversion. For every pronouncement about intrinsic evils and disordered sexuality, may religious men be ready to wipe tears and heal wounds and help to rediscover goodness and dignity. For every insensitive reaction to circumstances or perceived threats, may religious men bring the fruit of contemplation and discernment of the Spirit’s movement.

We agree with DeBernardo, who said of Stowe in a blog post:

These reflections by a relatively new bishop signal a new direction for the Church. They offer hope for people concerned with LGBT equality, but they also offer hope for the whole Church. The fact that they were spoken at a gathering of the leaders of men’s religious communities means that Stowe’s–and Pope Francis’–messsage [sic] is being spread to the “middle managers” of the church, the people who can make policy and pastoral practice changes. His words indicate that a message of tenderness is beginning to flower in our Church.

The entirety of Stowe’s opening reflection can be found here.

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Gospel Reflection: The Spirit and Conflict in Appalachia

Our friend Jean Denton has written a reflection on this Sunday’s readings for Catholic News Service that places CCA’s prophetic mission alongside Jesus’ words from the Gospel: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Denton is well tuned to Appalachian issues, having covered CCA activities for The Catholic Virginian diocesan newspaper for some time now. Denton writes:

An inspiring, ongoing story I covered as a reporter for my diocesan newspaper was the work of the church advocating for justice in Appalachia. Over recent decades, much of that mission has been carried out at the grass roots by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, an active group of religious and laypeople living and laboring with the people, lifting a prophetic voice against such degradation as mountaintop removal, industrial pollution and myriad social problems that come with endemic poverty.

The Holy Spirit is at work among God’s faithful people there, characteristically stirring up conflict. Characteristically?

In this week’s Gospel, Jesus asks, “Do you think I have come to establish peace on earth?”

On the contrary, he states, he intends to set the earth on fire, bringing division and, yes, that can mean conflict even among our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A stark example is the struggle for justice in Appalachia, alive with Christ’s Spirit as the members of the church grapple with their differences of opinion on environmental issues.

Members of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia last year applauded Pope Francis’ encyclical on the global threat of climate change. The pope’s words appeared to speak directly to conditions in Appalachia as he described the critical depletion of the earth’s natural resources and its particular impact on the poor.

But the response of some local dioceses differed from the committee’s. They disagreed on the environmental and economic impact some of the document’s proposals would have on the region as well as on how to address the problems it raised. Nevertheless, the committee encouraged all the bishops of Appalachia to engage the church in the concerns and conflicts raised by “Laudato Si’,” even though the conversation may be contentious.

Read the entire reflection here. Thank you, Jean, for your reporting, your reflections, and your friendship!


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NETWORK Lobby Praises People’s Pastoral


The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us, CCA’s 2015 “People’s Pastoral,” is featured in the new issue of NETWORK Connection, the quarterly publication of NETWORK Lobby and Nuns on the Bus.

In particular, NETWORK highlights the “first step” of CCA’s pastoral letters: listening. It is this first step of listening to ordinary people that shapes NETWORK’s “Nuns on the Bus” tours. The article also makes mention of last year’s bus tour which included a stop in Wheeling, West Virginia, where the sisters met with House of Hagar Catholic Worker, Grow Ohio Valley, and the Wheeling Jesuit University community.

About the Pastoral, NETWORK says:

In writing the People’s Pastoral, the CCA heard stories from residents of mountain communities, working people, people who are homeless, women, youth, people of color, native people, women religious, LGBTQ people, activists, people who have left the church, and more. While the People’s Pastoral is a prophetic call toward greater justice, peace, and wholeness for Appalachia, it is also a model for our country to listen and learn from one another and envision our future together.

Read the entire article here (PDF).

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Register NOW for 2016 Annual Gathering in Ravenna, KY

46th Annual Gathering
September 9-11, 2016
Aldersgate Camp & Retreat Center
Ravenna, KY

still uneven


This year, CCA commemorates the 30th Anniversary of the USCCB’s pastoral letter, Economic Justice for All,” and celebrates what would have been just over 50 years of the Commission on Religion in Appalachia (CORA), from which CCA sprung as the Catholic caucus. Continue reading

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Alyssa Pasternak-Post on WV Flooding and Beauty

CCA member Alyssa Pasternak-Post has written a powerful reflection titled “On Floods and Beauty: A Gospel Reflection Two Weeks after the West Virginia Floods” for the blog Women in Theology. An excerpt:

In today’s global society, with mounting evidence that human activity affects global climate change, “Who is my neighbor” includes those in our immediate proximity and extends to those whom we will never meet due to distance and time. The love of our mothering God – who comforts us in our times of great need – includes the love of neighbors in all times and places for generations to come, and “neighbor” extends to all that is created. Perhaps this flood can be a conduit for greater beauty to emerge – a beauty that has the power to engage us, to draw us into ugliness and to sustain us as we attempt to see clearly and to live justly and virtuously in communion with one another, the created world and our God.

This is Alyssa’s second piece for the site, having joined as a contributor this past spring. You can follow her writing at WIT here. Alyssa defended a theology master’s thesis on the Appalachian pastoral letter “This Land is Home to Me” at the University of Dayton in 2011. Her thesis is available online here.

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Recent Coverage of the People’s Pastoral

sojournerscover glenmarygover

We are pleased that the word is getting out about our new People’s Pastoral, “The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories That Shape Us.” Two great pieces have appeared so far this summer: our friend Barry Hudock’s article in Sojourners Magazine (read the entire article here) and Fr. John Rausch’s piece in Glenmary Challenge. Thank you to both Barry and John for helping us spread the word!

For a complete list of the coverage the People’s Pastoral has received, click here.

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Welcome to the website of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia! If you have visited our site before, you may have noticed some reorganizing and tweaking taking place here. Hopefully what you are looking for is still easy to find!

One major change that we are rolling out today is this new front page with regularly updated posts. It’s one way we hope to keep folks updated on CCA events, media features, and timely calls to action.

You can also stay in touch with us by signing up for our email list, which you can do in the right-hand sidebar of this site. We also maintain an active Facebook group and you can find us on Twitter and Instagram. Our West Virginia state chapter maintains a Facebook page here, and we are hoping that our other state chapters will follow suit soon.

And of course the best way to stay in touch is to become a member which, among other things, gets you on our mailing list. As a member, you’ll be sure to receive notice of all events and will receive our quarterly PatchQuilt newsletter.

Thanks for stopping by, and please let us know if you have suggestions for what you’d like to see on the site. We will make note of any new additions to the site right here on the front page.

Thanks for being in touch!

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