Over 80 members of the Catholic Committee of Appalachia met for the organization’s 46th annual gathering, September 9-11, 2016 at Aldersgate Camp and Retreat Center in Ravenna, Kentucky. This year’s theme was “Still Uneven: Hope Rises with the Telling” and focused on economic justice in the region. The gathering commemorated the 30th anniversary of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ 1986 pastoral letter Economic Justice for All and also celebrated the late 2015 release of CCA’s “people’s pastoral,” The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us.
CCA member Margaret Gabriel reported on the gathering for The Record newspaper of the Archdiocese of Louisville:
Bishop John Stowe of the Diocese of Lexington welcomed the 80 attendees and told them about the first time he read the committee’s pastoral letters, “This Land is Home to Me,” and “At Home in the Web of Life.”
At the time, he said, he was a graduate student at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkley, Calif., and recalls telling his classmates, “Look how the church teaches here. Minds and wills have come together to make something happen.”
After his ordination as Bishop of Lexington in 2015, Bishop Stowe was invited to serve as the bishops’ liaison for CCA.
Integral to the annual gathering was the committee’s third and most recent pastoral letter — “The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories That Shape Us.” The letter was published in 2015 and is known as the “People’s Pastoral.”
The gathering’s keynote — given by Father Rausch and Dr. Ron Eller — addressed the current state of economic affairs in Appalachia, the history of the church’s involvement and thoughts on the future from.
Eller, a historian who served for 15 years as the director of the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, is the author of several books about the Appalachian region and its history.
Father Rausch holds a master’s degree in economics, and has been involved in worker and environmental issues in the Appalachian region since 1970. He writes about such topics through the lens of Catholic social teaching.
The afternoon session featured Michael Iafrate, the primary author of the “People’s Pastoral” and Jessica Wrobleski, who served as the primary editor.
They said that Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical “Laudato Si’ ” “tilled the ground for the pastoral.”
“There was an emphasis on things being connected, social and environmental, and we must look at all pieces of the puzzle,” Iafrate said.
They also discussed the importance of promulgating the pastoral, and asked CCA members to think creatively about ways it can be disseminated via print, as well as the CCA website, ccappal.org/thetellingtakesushome2015.
Read Margaret’s entire report here.
CCA’s 2017 gathering will be held in Black Mountain, North Carolina and will focus on sustainable communities.