JUST Gospel: Rural Issues of Agriculture, Nutrition

Sister Kathleen Murphy

September 16, 2014

Franciscan Sister Kathleen Murphy begins series of peace and justice articles partnered on faith.

This month brings us to the point of beginning a new cycle of articles dealing with peace and justice partnered with faith. As a Church and as a religious community we are called to be aware of many social concerns and needs in our world. Among this plethora of topics, we have a special concern with issues facing rural communities here and around the world.

Agriculture and Nutrition

Franciscan Friar Brendan WroblewskiMinistering to rural communities has been woven into the fabric of our community. So, as Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity we turn this year to focus on the topics of agriculture, nutrition and rural issues. We will begin by taking a look at For I Was Hungry and You Gave Me Food: Catholic Reflections on Food, Farmers, and Farmworkers, a document developed by the Committee on Domestic Policy of United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Although this is not a new publication, (2003) it has much for us to consider. So, let us begin.

The Bishops begin with a clear and urgent introduction to their thoughts. They write: “We seek to address agriculture through the lens of our faith because so much is at stake in moral and human terms. Food sustains life itself; it is not just another product. Providing food for all is a Gospel imperative, not just another policy choice. For many, farming is a way of life, not just another business or industry. Agriculture is the way farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers provide a decent life for their families and help feed a hungry world. It is not just another economic activity.

Ethics of Food

tomatoes grown at Franciscan conventAgriculture is different because it touches all our lives, wherever we live or whatever we do. It is about how we feed our own families, and the whole human family. It is about how we treat those who put food on our table and those who do not have enough food.

Too many in our Church and nation do not know the world of agriculture. For some, agriculture is a distant reality, little seen and less understood. When we go to the supermarket, we rarely think about where our food comes from, who produces it, who harvests it, or what it takes to process, package, and distribute it. When many of us think about agriculture at all, we worry about the economic cost of groceries and not the environmental cost to our land or the human cost to farmers, farmworkers, and rural communities in the United States and around the world.

Challenge to Be Stewards

In these reflections, we seek to challenge this Franciscan Sisters grow tomatoes at Manitowoc conventlack of awareness, which can lead to indifference or excessive self-interest. We focus on the ethics of how food and fiber are produced, how land is protected, and how agriculture is structured, compensated, and regulated to serve the “common good.” We also call Catholics to think more about and act on these important but often neglected concerns in light of our faith.”

The Bishops’ introduction helps us to understand the importance of considering the issues of agriculture as Church. The underlying issues are matters of justice and charity within our global community. Perhaps this month we can get a mind set for considering these issues by simply being more aware of the role agriculture plays in our daily living—the food we eat, the fuel we use, the clothing we wear. Let us praise God for the gifts of creation and ask blessing on those who serve as direct stewards of these gifts.

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