The Church and the Land: The National Catholic Rural Life Conference and American Society, 1923-2007

The Church and the Land: The National Catholic Rural Life Conference and American Society, 1923-2007

by David S. Bovee


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The Church and the Land is the first scholarly history of the Catholic rural life movement in the United States from its beginning in the 1920s to the present day. It tells the story of the men and women of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) who labored to bring Catholic principles into effect to benefit the farm families, agricultural laborers, and others who lived in the American countryside.

This book recalls that in the nineteenth century, most Catholic immigrants settled in the cities, and the few who dwelled in rural areas were a neglected backwater of the Church. In 1923, under the leadership of an Oregon priest named Edwin V. O'Hara, the NCRLC was formed as a grassroots organization of rural clergy, religious, and laypeople dedicated to serving the needs of Catholic rural America. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the NCRLC focused on helping farmers in economic distress. In the era of World War II, charismatic Monsignor Luigi Ligutti took the helm of the NCRLC and brought the Conference into international rural life. The NCRLC helped provide food relief and farms in America for war refugees and supported aid to developing countries. The book goes on to detail the Conference's participation in the War on Poverty by helping the poor and minorities. Finally, it outlines the NCRLC's activities in recent decades to save the earth from environmental degradation.

This book provides a fascinating institutional and intellectual history of the NCRLC, one that will guide future scholars working in American Catholic and rural history.


David S. Bovee received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Chicago and is currently assistant professor of history at Fort Hays State University in Kansas.


"David S. Bovee has combed Catholic archives to present a blow-by-blow history of this little organization. . . . [H]is study will serve as the NCRLC's definitive history." —Mark Stoll, American Historical Review

"David Bovee's work is a very significant contribution to the history of American Catholicism. This is the first full-length study of the NCRLC, and it fills a gap. The scholarship is superb. Bovee has used every conceivable primary and secondary source available."—Margaret M. McGuinness, professor and chair of religious studies, La Salle University

"Everybody who does work in this field is familiar with David Bovee. The Church and the Land provides impressive historical scope, research data, and seemingly endless primary sources. This work will stand as the definitive work on the Conference."—Jeffrey Marlett, associate professor of religious studies, College of Saint Rose

"This is an excellent book, unique in providing an up to date history of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. In a time when land, food and justice are in films (Food, Inc., Fresh, The Omnivore's Dilemma) and in the press almost daily, this thoughtful and well documented history deserves its place in the public forum. From the 1920's to the 2007's the NCRLC has a unique role in public policy concerning food, agriculture, the environment, animal welfare and worker justice. As a small organization it seems to have been significantly competent in its analysis and advocacy from the special lens of Catholic Social Teaching. It deserves a wide readership and a place in every Catholic University, seminary library and in many Catholic homes. It should be enjoyed in Protestant and Interfaith settings as well. The role of NCRLC is not well known but deserves to be much better known." —Dave Andrews, former director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference

"The Church and the Land is a comprehensive study of the most important Roman Catholic organization dealing with rural issues in the United States. David Bovee trac

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813217208
Publisher: The Catholic University of America Press
Publication date: 02/28/2010
Edition description: New
Pages: 418
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

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