Policy Briefs

Rural Life 1998

“A Call to Reflect on God’s Creation in Preparation for the Millennium”
Iowa Catholic Conference
November 5, 1998

Our Catholic tradition, rooted in the writings of the prophets and the words and deeds of Jesus, calls us to reflect on the fullness of God’s creation as we prepare for the Millennium, the year 2000. We give thanks for the bounty of the land and natural resources of Iowa. This is a wonderful, fruitful land located between two great rivers. The land is fed by nurturing waters and blessed with rich soil. Iowa is characterized by hundreds of small communities and several urban centers with people who care about each other and the environment. All are bound together in a single web of life.

We see the web of life as being threatened. We see our clean water and fresh air as being tainted. We see our land as suffering. We see our communities are hurting. We see that these changes in the Iowa landscape have moral ramifications, which cannot be ignored by people of faith. As Catholics in Iowa, we need to ponder what is happening to our land, water and people. We need to reflect on our faith in relationship to the gift of God’s creation and our communion with each other.

Catholic social teaching on rural life is filled with a rich heritage of Papal encyclicals, pastoral letters, church statements and reflections on the Scriptures, beginning with the Creation narrative from the Book of Genesis. It is important that we as Catholics in Iowa take the opportunity of the Millennium to review these teachings in the light of the economic, social and agricultural policies affecting rural life today.

When Pope John Paul II visited Iowa in 1979, he encouraged us to “keep the land well.” The shift toward large confinement operations in the Iowa countryside has raised serious concern for the quality of the land, water and air in our state. The environment and the health of our people may be adversely affected by the indiscriminate use of chemicals.

We have witnessed a growing concentration of both the land and the means to agricultural production into the hands of fewer and fewer agricultural producers. The drastic decline in the number of small and medium-sized farms jeopardizes the social, economic, spiritual and physical well-being of people in our rural communities.

The year 2000 presents us with a wonderful opportunity as a people of faith to recommit ourselves to the Church’s teaching on stewardship of God’s creation. This should be a time for prayer, reflection, dialogue and political advocacy on these vital issues facing the Church now and in the new Millennium.

November 5, 1998