Farmers called to a unique vocation Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Mary C. Uhler, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Sep. 07, 2017 -- 12:00 AM
jim ennis
Jim Ennis

DODGEVILLE -- “Farmers are called to a unique vocation,” said Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, the Catholic non-profit organization serving the rural Church in the United States for over 93 years.

Ennis discussed the role of farmers in an interview about a recent document called The Vocation of the Agricultural Leader: Integrating Faith with Agriculture and the Environment.

The document was published in 2016 by the ICRA (International Catholic Rural Association) in Rome and Catholic Rural Life headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. Ennis also serves as president of the ICRA.

Why document prepared?

Why was the document prepared? Ennis said, “There clearly seemed to be no Catholic faith voice on a lot of food and agriculture issues. I saw farmers beaten down by the grind of their work and losing a sense of their vocation.”

In 2012, Ennis attended a conference in Rome at which a document called The Vocation of the Business Leader was presented.

Jim Ennis to speak
in Dodgeville October 1
DODGEVILLE -- “Vocation of the Agricultural Leader” is the topic of a presentation to be given by Jim Ennis, executive director of Catholic Rural Life, on Sunday, Oct. 1, at St. Joseph Parish in Dodgeville.
This workshop is for anyone involved in or interested in agriculture: producers, processors, consumers, and anyone willing to consider how our Catholic faith informs all aspects of agriculture.
Farming is not easy work. Given the complexities of agricultural production — the natural elements, changing climate, global competition, and constant pressure to make a living while being good stewards of the natural resources — there is a great need for ethical leadership in addressing these challenges and understanding our relationship to others, God, and the environment.
This workshop will be held at St. Joseph Parish, 405 S.     Dacotah St., Dodgeville. The day will begin at 12 noon with Mass followed by lunch. At 2 p.m., Ennis will present highlights of the document, Vocation of the Agricultural Leader: Integrating Faith with Agriculture and the Environment.
Reservations at $10 per person include lunch and a copy of the document. Send reservations to Fr. Bernard Rott, Holy Ghost Parish, P.O. Box 429, Dickeyville, WI 53808. Deadline is September 20.

Ennis mentioned to Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, that there was a need for a similar document about farmers. “Cardinal Turkson said, ‘That’s a great idea. You do it.’”

So Ennis and Dr. Christopher Thompson, associate professor of moral theology and director of the Center for Theological Formation at from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, developed the document.

“It took four years. We presented it to Pope Francis in December of 2016 with about 60 people, including farmers and members of farm organizations from every continent,” said Ennis.

He emphasizes that the document is important to everyone, not just farmers. “We all eat food and we all buy food,” he noted. “We should all be concerned about where food comes from, food security, how it’s grown, and how faith informs all involved.”

Vocation of the farmer

The document emphasizes the vocation of the farmer. Ennis explained, “Vocation is a calling. There is a caller -- the Creator -- who calls the farmer to this unique vocation. We hope this document helps retrieve this understanding of farming as a vocation.”

He said that there is a great responsibility that goes with that vocation. “It involves not only feeding the world, but caring for the world, passing it on to the next generation in as good or better shape, so that the soil, water, and air are clean.”

The document emphasizes the importance of the farmer as caring for the well-being of the human person and the natural environment -- both created by God. “Farmers are stewards of creation,” said Ennis.

The document points out that a vocational approach to agriculture:

• Promotes family farms.

• Ensures food and nutrition for all as a matter of justice.

• Encourages farmers and consumers to make food choices with considerations beyond merely profit and cost.

• Produces food that is good for human beings and good for the environment.

• Recognizes and respects farming as a noble call from God and an irreplaceable way of life.

Role of consumers

How can consumers help farmers? Ennis suggests supporting local agriculture and family farms.

Consumers can ask if local grocery stores and restaurants are using locally grown food as much as possible. Consumers can support farmers’ markets and consumer supported agriculture (CSAs).

People can also support policies at the state and federal levels that help family farmers.

Ennis is speaking all over the country and sharing insights from the document. He will be speaking in the Diocese of Madison in Dodgeville on Sunday, Oct. 1.

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