The Church and the Land
the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and American society, 1923-2007
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: The Catholic University of America Press
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This book is a history of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) and its relations to American society from its founding in 1923 to 2007. Previous work in American Catholic history has concentrated on the urban Church to the virtual exclusion of its rural component. This study ...
1. Catholic Rural America to 1920
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The Catholic rural life movement in the United States was a response to the weakness of the Catholic Church in the American countryside. In 1920, when the movement began, only about one-fifth of American Catholics lived in the country, whereas the United States as a whole was about evenly divided between urban ...
2. O’Hara and the Formation of the Conference
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Edwin Vincent O’Hara, the founder of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) and eventual bishop of Kansas City, was born on a farm near Lanesboro, Minnesota, on September 6, 1881.1 His background prepared him well for his leadership of the Catholic rural life movement. O’Hara’s parents, Owen and ...
3. The Catholic Rural Population Problem
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The main preoccupation of the Rural Life Bureau and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference during the 1920s was the relative weakness of the small rural sector of the Church and its implications for the overall American Catholic population. Since he began his work, Father O’Hara ...
4. The Great Depression
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In the 1930s, America’s Great Depression propelled the National Catholic Rural Life Conference into a new era in its development. The severity of the Depression’s impact upon Catholic farmers made it imperative that the Conference address economic issues in a serious and consistent way. In ...
5. Programs to Meet the Crisis
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Catholic rural leaders saw that the crisis of the Great Depression could also be a great opportunity, particularly for Catholic rural life. As Edgar Schmiedeler put it, when the heavy migration from farm to city took place during the 1920s, “Bishop O’Hara and his valiant and faithful crew kept ...
6. Inside the NCRLC
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While the NCRLC grappled with the economic problems of the Great Depression in the 1930s, it suffered from a series of organizational difficulties and personal squabbles that interacted in a complex manner throughout the decade. These problems can be looked at from three major perspectives. First was the conflict ...
7. Ligutti Takes the Helm
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In 1940, Monsignor Luigi G. Ligutti became executive secretary of the NCRLC. Remarkably, given the pervasive conflicts and multiplicity of leadership within the movement in the 1930s, Ligutti soon was able to centralize the movement under his own direction. He had already begun to make ...
8. The Conference Becomes International
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During the 1920s, the newborn NCRLC was most concerned with the Catholic rural population problem. Later, in response to the Great Depression, the Conference turned its attention to the economic aspects of rural life as well. During the 1940s, the NCRLC further expanded the scope of its activities by ...
9. Helping Developing Countries
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The NCRLC’s involvement in international rural life started in response to World War II, but the Conference’s primary foreign concern soon became developing countries. As Christians looking at the international arena, the Conference saw these countries as being the most in need of charity. The NCRLC helped
10. The End of the Ligutti Era
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Along with Monsignor Ligutti’s many accomplishments in bringing the NCRLC into international rural life came new tensions within the organization. Ligutti’s biographer, Vincent A. Yzermans, called the 1950s the “time of trouble” for his subject. “No decade in his life caused Monsignor Ligutti as many headaches ...
11. Organizing for Social Involvement
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In the latest phase of its history, from 1960 through the beginning of the twenty-first century, the NCRLC focused on new issues of the times, most prominently social justice and the environment. At the same time, the Conference’s organization opened up in harmony with the era of Vatican II in the Church and modernized ...
12. For the Family Farm in the Age of Agribusiness
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From World War II to the end of the century, the NCRLC continued to hold up the family farm as an ideal and to promote policies that supported it, despite an increasingly unfavorable economic and social environment. American society as a whole tended more and more to accept large-scale agribusiness rather ...
13. Fighting Poverty
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Besides trying to save the family farm, the NCRLC made efforts to aid the least fortunate of those living on the land. The United States had pockets of rural poverty in areas such as Appalachia as well as poor farmers who did not own land—the migrant farm workers. Rural minorities such as African Americans and ...
14. Stewardship of the Planet
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In the late twentieth century, the meaning of rural life in the United States changed significantly. As the number of family farms decreased greatly, the rural area was seen less as connected to the family farming lifestyle than as an environment that affected urban and rural people alike. The NCRLC adapted its ...
15. Catholic and American: The NCRLC over Eight Decades
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It remains to assess the important effects of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference—both intended and unintended—and the main themes of its development. Three important areas of the Conference’s effects were the Catholic rural population problem, the NCRLC’s role in the Catholic social action ...
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Page Count: 416
Publication Year: 2012