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Catholic Rural Life; A Special Place in the Church and World

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For 100 years, Catholic Rural Life has promoted Catholicism throughout rural areas of the U.S. While the ministry is based in Minnesota, there are religious order men and women supporting this integral mission in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Sister Christine Pratt, with the Ursulines of Brown County, has been a member of Catholic Rural Life for 40 years, while Brother Nick Renner, with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, has been a member for nearly as long.

Sister Pratt’s first rural experience came after joining the Ursulines of Brown County in 1964. She later earned a graduate degree in rural sociology, which she applied in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Catholic Diocese of Toledo and Archdiocese of Detroit. She attended the National Catholic Rural Life conference in 1982, became a member shortly afterward and accepted a leadership role for 19 years, non-consecutively. Currently semi-retired, Sister Pratt works part-time as the Southeast Rural Regional coordinator in the archdiocese’s Catholic Social Action office and was recently featured in the national Catholic Rural Life Magazine for its 100-year celebration.

Brother Renner’s role with Catholic Rural Life involves farm Masses and rural plunges. “Working with God in nature and feeding His people [is rewarding],” said Brother Renner. “Conservation practices on the land keep healthy soil and make for healthy food.”

Sister Pratt agreed, “Our rural communities hold a special place in our church and the world, as they represent those who bring forth both the Bread of Life that nourishes our souls and the food for life that we may continue to serve God and God’s people.”

“Jesus came from a small rural town,” Sister Pratt said. “He used rural and agricultural images to describe His living and His parables. He valued the land and all its potential and its challenges. He gave us Himself through the elements of bread and wine—wheat and grapes. Who [is better] connected with the gifts of the earth and the work to produce these elements that will become the Body and Blood of Jesus than our rural farming community?”

“This reality of faith is made evident at every Mass when the priest prays over the bread and wine that have been brought to the altar,” she continued. “‘Blessed are you God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become the bread of life. Blessed are you God of all creation for through your goodness we have received the wine we offer; fruit of the vine and the work of human hands, it will become our spiritual drink.’ And the people respond, ‘Blessed be God forever.’”

Brother Renner added, “We need urban and rural relationships to thrive. That makes a wonderful community, when we listen to each other and learn from one another.”

This article appeared in the June 2024 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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