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Everyday Evangelists: Attorney promotes understanding of rural life

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

By Mike Dyer

ST. MARTIN DEANERY — Pat Hornschemeier is doing his part to facilitate a faith-filled conversation that has a significant impact on many members of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati across a range of geographic areas.
 
As chairman of the Catholic Rural Life Conference of the St. Martin Deanery, Hornschemeier is actively involved with agricultural and rural issues of utmost importance to residents of five eastern counties — Adams, Brown, Clinton, Highland and a significant portion of Clermont County.


 
Since the conference’s inception 15 years ago, Hornschemeier has been instrumental in helping to promote a Catholic-based message on agriculture and farm policy issues. The archdiocesan Rural Life Conference, which consists of the northern areas of the archdiocese, and the St. Martin Rural Life Conference help to educate parishes and parishioners by identifying rural life needs, providing resources and advocating a Catholic moral perspective.
 

 Pat Hornschemeier
Pat Hornschemeier does his part to promote understanding of rural life. (Courtesy photo)

Hornschemeier said the St. Martin Rural Life Conference meets six times a year on the second Thursday of even calendar months at St. Mary Parish in Arnheim, located in Brown County. The group discusses a variety of issues, including those related to justice, legislative advocacy, farming and community-supported agriculture, such as locally produced foods.
 
“We’ve addressed a number of priorities over the years,” said Hornschemeier, who was born and raised in Anderson Township.
 
All of the meetings have a Catholic-based theme, he said. Every year, the conference sponsors a Farm Mass and has plans for another in September.

Tony Stieritz, director of the archdiocesan Catholic Social Action Office, has worked with Hornschemeier for the past five years and has observed his dedication to rural issues.

“Pat has been a steadfast leader of the Rural Life Conference for the St. Martin Deanery for a number of years now,” Stieritz said. “He has been a champion of the church’s Catholic social teaching principles as they relate to supporting the family farm, promoting sustainable food systems and preserving farmland in that part of the archdiocese.”

Stieritz said Hornschemeier also helped create the Southwest Ohio Farmland Preservation Association, which, by providing certain tax incentives to landowners, has saved countless acres of land from development so that they can remain perpetually for agricultural use.
 
Hornschemeier, whose ancestors were vegetable farmers in Anderson Township, said the St. Martin Rural Life Conference also communicates and educates effectively with members of the archdiocese who live in cities or suburbs of Greater Cincinnati.
 
“I’ve seen God calling me to try to make a contribution in the area of bringing about dialogue between rural and urban areas,” said Hornschemeier, who has lived in Brown County since 1981 and has been an attorney in private practice there and in Clermont County since 1984.
 
The conference also helps promote an archdiocesan program that allows about 24 Greater Cincinnati high school students to spend a day in Brown County in June to learn about rural life. Students will often visit farms, eat dinner with families and tour greenhouses that produce hydroponic tomatoes. They might also spend time volunteering at the Hope Emergency Center, a food distribution center in Brown County.
 
Hornschemeier said students from Summit Country Day School often visit the rural area for a couple of days at the start of their Thanksgiving break. He acts as a tour guide of sorts for the groups of high school students and said the conference often organizes activities. He said students take a “rural plunge” into understanding aspects of rural life and poverty issues that they might not have been aware of previously. He noted that it’s been a fulfilling experience to offer insights to students about the challenges and issues surrounding rural life.
 
Hornschemeier, who has been a parishioner at St. Mary Parish for about 20 years, said the conference has up to 25 members that attend their meetings.

“I think a large part of what the Rural Life Conference does is communication and facilitation of trying to get people to know about issues and actually make a connection with people outside their usual experience,” Hornschemeier said.
 
He often sends press releases about projects within the conference. The third annual Buy Local Foods seminar was among the most recent. Hornschemeier said about 60 people gathered Jan. 31 at the St. George Parish hall in Georgetown to hear discussions on food-buying clubs and finding local food sources, along with marketing, production and distribution topics.

“Under Pat’s leadership, the St. Martin Deanery Rural Life Conference continues to be a very active advocate for the family farmer and a source of enlightenment to Catholics in the archdiocese who want to develop closer relationships with those who produce their food,” Stieritz said.

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