CCA Bishop Liaison’s Statement on Charlottesville

Lexington Bishop John Stowe, CCA’s Bishop Liaison, has released a statement on recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The statement is available as a PDF here. The text of the statement follows:

17 August 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is time for us all, as people of faith, to stand with those working to heal the racial divide in our country and to resist and renounce any remnants of racism- from our own hearts and from our public spaces. We categorically reject the ideology of hatred and intolerance espoused by white supremacists, neo-nazis and other “alt-right” groups. Their message and their philosophy is entirely incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings of our faith. Our Judeo-Christian Scriptures begin with the story of our common origin, from one God who is Creator of us all. From the perspective of our faith, we are all sisters and brothers.

As we are horrified by the violent events of intolerance in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, we should nonetheless be encouraged by the numbers of people coming together across the country and right here in our community to promote unity, to affirm the dignity of all human beings made in the image and likeness of God, and working to heal rather than forget the tragic consequences of slavery, segregation and all forms of racial injustice.

We cannot heal or move forward until we are willing to read history and understand current events from the perspective of those who have been oppressed and suffered discrimination against because of their race. We must learn from a brutal past and commit ourselves to a more just and fraternal present and future.

If the forces of hatred and racism wish to demonstrate and voice their venomous beliefs in Lexington, Frankfort or any of our communities, we must show them the strength of unity, we must be true witnesses of the love made manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, we must resist non-violently, and we must work together to build the kind of society in which all people have the opportunity to flourish and contribute to the common good.

Let us pray for unity to prevail, let us learn the lessons of history, let us listen to one another from the heart, let us see our diversity as a source of strength and beauty and let us work together to promote the dignity and inestimable value of each child of God.

Peace and all good,
Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Catholic Diocese of Lexington

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CCA Statement on White Supremacy

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has released a statement on white supremacy in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. The entire statement, which was approved by the CCA Board of Directors, can be read here.

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CCA Releases Statement on American Health Care Act

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has released a statement opposing congressional efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and implement the American Health Care Act (AHCA).   The entire statement, which was approved by the CCA Board of Directors, can be read here.

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Fr. Les Schmidt Celebrates Jubilee Year

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.

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CCA Releases Statement on Reversal of Stream Protection Rule

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.

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CCA’s North Carolina Chapter Releases Statement on Clericalism

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.

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CCA’s Bishop Liaison Issues Statement on Executive Order on Immigration

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

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First Birthday of the People’s Pastoral!













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!

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Standing Rock and Cherokee Spirituality


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.

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CCA Congratulates ISN Award Winner Danny Swan

danny-swanThe 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.

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