Pastoral Letters

A pastoral letter is an open letter addressed by a bishop to Catholic clergy, laity, and all people of good will. Pastorals generally contain instruction, consolation, or directions for behavior in particular circumstances. CCA is known for its planning, writing, and promulgation of two pastoral letters from the Appalachian bishops and one “people’s pastoral.”

The Appalachian Bishops’ Pastoral Letters

The Appalachian bishops’ pastorals are widely recognized as two of the most influential pastoral letters of the U.S. Catholic Church in our times. CCA publishes and sells, in a single-volume book, the two letters signed by the bishops from the dioceses within the Appalachian region.  These are:

  • “This Land is Home to Me: A Pastoral Letter on the Poverty and Powerlessness in Appalachia” (1975)
  • “At Home in the Web of Life: A Pastoral Message  on Sustainable Communities in Appalachia.” (1995)

Click here to read them now online. Click here to order a hard copy.

The People’s Pastoral 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of “This Land is Home to Me” and the 20th anniversary of “At Home in Web of Life,” CCA intended to publish a third Appalachian pastoral letter. As the pastoral priorities of the regions bishops had shifted away from social justice concerns, CCA opted to write a “people’s pastoral” without the direct involvement of the bishops. The people’s pastoral was published in 2015.

  • The Telling Takes Us Home: Taking Our Place in the Stories that Shape Us (A People’s Pastoral from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia)

Click here to read it online. Click here to order a hard copy.

  • Abridged Version of the People’s Pastoral

CCA also offers an inexpensive abridged newspaper edition of The Telling Takes Us Home as a shorter introduction to the message of the People’s Pastoral. The newsprint version includes a discussion guide which pairs nicely with our People’s Pastoral video for use with students, parish discussion groups, activist groups, etc. We are grateful to Appalachian Community Fund for a grant which made this abridged version possible.

Copies of the abridged pastoral are 50 cents apiece, and may be ordered by calling 304-927-5798, or by writing us at or 81 Puddle Run, Spencer, WV 25276. Sample copies are available by request.

  • Discussion Resources

Click here to download a PDF discussion guide for “The Telling Takes Us Home”

Endorsements of the People’s Pastoral

“This new pastoral letter highlights the ‘magisterium of the poor’ and continues the tradition of the previous letters, with more than a thousand listenings across Appalachia with special attention to marginalized persons and the devastated earth. [The Catholic Committee of Appalachia has] listened with their hearts as Pope Francis has called us to do.”
—Bishop John Stowe, OFM Conv.
Bishop of Lexington, KY

“Absolutely stunning in its gathering of diverse voices of human beings and the land, this People’s Pastoral is even more profound in its call to practice resurrection in crucified places. One needs to read and ponder it slowly, with the heart, as with a psalm. Then the wisdom born in pain in the region of coal can spark the struggle for beautiful lives in other regions of the country and the world.”
—Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ
Distinguished Professor of Theology, Fordham University

“Congratulations on the People’s Pastoral! [The pastoral] has raised ‘story’ to the theological level the church and society needs to hear.”
—Fr. John Rausch
Glenmary priest, former Executive Director of Catholic Committee of Appalachia

“As Pope Francis himself says, ‘God is not afraid of new things.’ [This People’s Pastoral is] in sync with Pope Francis.”
—Sister Beth Davies, CND

“This is the most reflective, beautiful pastoral I’ve ever read. I think it should be a model for the Bishops.”
—Sister Donna Butler, SP

“[The People’s Pastoral] understands that the Good News is likely to come from these people, not from books and degrees. And it is trying to call that forth. Coal is the Pharaoh in Appalachia. The pastoral helps us think about how to stop building his pyramids.”
—Allen Johnson
Founder and Coordinator of Christians for the Mountains

“Reading the latest People’s Pastoral from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia is like lingering over a classic work of art.”
—Michael Barrick
Appalachian Chronicle

“[T]he document is a rich and soaring reflection on ‘what it means to follow Jesus in this place.’”
Sojourners Magazine

“Embracing some three years of sharing stories, the pastoral invites us to join that harmony of listening. In the footsteps of Pope Francis, listening promotes the first step for solidarity with the poor and the devastated Earth.”
—Fr. Les Schmidt
Glenmary priest,
Regional Worker with Catholic Committee of the South (CCS), Gathering for Mission, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The Telling Takes Us Home is a microcosm of the current plight of the planetary community. In a way it offers a smoothly transitioned, localized sequel to Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical ‘Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home,’ reading every bit as beautifully and powerfully.”
—Sharon Abercrombie
National Catholic Reporter

The Telling Takes Us Home is a lyrical and theological call for justice to the poor and eco-justice to the land in Appalachia. It is also a love letter by the church to the people and communities, the hills and valleys of the Appalachian region…. If [this “people’s pastoral”] gains external impact equal to the other Appalachian letters, it will influence religious environmentalism and social justice work far behind church circles, regardless of official reaction…. [It] is worthwhile reading for all scholars of Appalachian culture, economy, and society, and potentially inspirational reading for both the devout in the generally curious. Reading the three CCA pastorals together yields a survey of enduring problems and resilient hope in Appalachia over four decades.”
—Gilson Waldkoenig
Journal of Appalachian Studies

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