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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West Virginia Chapter Releases Statement on Collection for the Archdiocese for the Military Services in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston

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).

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Bishop Stowe on Faithful Citizenship

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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NEW!! People’s Pastoral T-shirts now available to order online!

White on Heathered Mocha, Royal Apparel, Union Made, 50% Cotton, 50% Polyester – comes in SM, MD, LG, XL, XXL —CLICK HERE to ORDER YOURS TODAY!!


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CCA Honors 2016 Award Recipients at Annual Gathering

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.

Fr. Al Fritsch, SJ

Fr. Al Fritsch, SJ

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, Glenmary

Fr. John Rausch, Glenmary

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.

Amy Williams accepted the award on behalf of MACED.

Amy Williams accepted the award on behalf of MACED.

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.


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CCA Holds 46th Annual Gathering

2016-gatheringOver 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,

Read Margaret’s entire report here.

CCA’s 2017 gathering will be held in Black Mountain, North Carolina and will focus on sustainable communities.

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Review: Catherine Bush’s “Though the Mountains May Fall”

though the mountainsThough the Mountains May Fall
By Catherine Bush

Reviewed by Jaculyn Hanrahan, CND
Appalachian Faith & Ecology Center

Our increasingly beloved The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us now has another voice among the emerging stories of our third Appalachian “People’s Pastoral.” Sunday, August 21, 2016 introduced the nascent play Though the Mountains May Fall by Catherine Bush, playwright in residence for the Barter Theater, in Abingdon, VA. Each year since 2000, the Appalachian Festival of Plays and Playwrights (AFPP) celebrates the richness of Appalachian culture by showcasing stories of the region and the inspiration it provides writers. This year Catherine’s submission of Though the Mountains May Fall joined the ranks as one of the six readings done at the Festival. The play is the fourth installment of Bush’s Mud Creek series.

Eight Barter actors and Director Andrew Hampton Livingston presented the reading in the smaller Barter II Stage to a full house audience. Even without any staging, but with good acting and fine casting, the piece placed us squarely in the heart of the living mosaic of injustices that engage and challenge each one of us in Central Appalachia today. Bush’s work particularly captures the “strangeness and uniqueness” which is often the Catholic reality here as church folks try to navigate the waters of the same issue laden voices expressed in the third pastoral. I was very aware as I experienced this performance that I was listening for those voices, of the marginalized within the mainstream, and I wasn’t disappointed. The pastoral itself is not mentioned explicitly in the play, but clearly Catherine Bush understands “catholic” as well as this pastoral. I’ve only seen one other play in her Mud Creek series, so I know I missed many of the allusions to those other works which must have been present in this new play. I want to make up that gap because it will enhance my appreciation of the newest piece.

The audience discussion following the reading of Though The Mountains May Fall made note of the many justice issues in the play and to what degree it was issue driven, character driven, or faith driven. Who was the actual protagonist? There was also comment about the degree to which this work is a comedy or a drama, because clearly both are present throughout the play. It is a contemporary play, taking situations right from our current global and national news. It is a Catholic play, not so much due our Catholic creedal beliefs as it is of our catholic tradition of social justice, rooted in the gospel and centuries of witness by saints and sinners. It is a catholic play because of the Pope Francis factor and the fascination he evokes in so many non-Catholics.

I’m still processing the impact of this play on me. The former English teacher in me is imagining how it would be staged. The CCA member in me is thinking of how it could be and might be shared with various audiences even in conjunction with the actual pastoral. And the Catholic woman and sister in me is challenged by the faith and vulnerability of the lead, Fr. Timothy Ryan, and wonders why it is that the priest is the lead. I can identify with the strength of the women characters, the complexity and interconnectedness of the issues in this play that surround most of us every day, and the goodness that happens, the hope that is held, when we push against the voices that try to deny what we know is true. Good job, Catherine Bush.

I certainly look forward to the full production of the play Though the Mountains May Fall. Let’s do this again.

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Pope Francis: “Show Mercy for Our Common Home”

The Catholic Committee of Appalachia’s People’s Pastoral, “The Telling Takes Us Home,” reads:

[W]e urge a politics that serves
people and Earth,
not corporations.
In the spirit of Pope Francis,
we are calling for a politics
of what we might call ecological mercy.

Today, Pope Francis discusses the need to show mercy to creation in his message “Show Mercy to our Common Home,” issued on this first World Day of Prayer for Creation.

In the message the Pope again urges people of faith to make an ecological examination of conscience, and then goes on to suggest that Christians add a new “work of mercy” to the traditional seven Works of Mercy:

The Christian life involves the practice of the traditional seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy. “We usually think of the works of mercy individually and in relation to a specific initiative: hospitals for the sick, soup kitchens for the hungry, shelters for the homeless, schools for those to be educated, the confessional and spiritual direction for those needing counsel and forgiveness… But if we look at the works of mercy as a whole, we see that the object of mercy is human life itself and everything it embraces.”

Obviously “human life itself and everything it embraces” includes care for our common home. So let me propose a complement to the two traditional sets of seven: may the works of mercy also include care for our common home.

As a spiritual work of mercy, care for our common home calls for a “grateful contemplation of God’s world” (Laudato Si, 214) which “allows us to discover in each thing a teaching which God wishes to hand on to us” (ibid., 85). As a corporal work of mercy, care for our common home requires “simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness” and “makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world” (ibid., 230-31).

Read the entire message, “Show Mercy to Our Common Home,” here.

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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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