‘‘This Land is Home to Me,’’ a pastoral letter issued by the Catholic bishops of Appalachia in 1975, was written in response to the concerns raised by the Catholic Committee of Appalachia in 1974 regarding the economic and political inequalities that characterized the Appalachian region. Over the course of the following year, members of the committee traveled throughout Appalachia, listening to individuals, community groups, and church workers. The stories that came out of these visits were then incorporated into the writing of the pastoral, which was grounded in Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic Church on social justice. The pastoral is unusual for its poetic language and the free verse style in which it is written.
The letter was signed by all 25 bishops of the Appalachian region and was promulgated on February 1, 1975, at Wheeling Jesuit University. In 1995, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia published a second pastoral message, ‘‘At Home in the Web of Life: A Pastoral Message on Sustainable Communities in Appalachia,’’ on the observance of the 20th anniversary of ‘‘This Land is Home to Me.’’ In this pastoral the committee advocates the creation and defense of sustainable communities in Appalachia through the responsible stewardship of the land and its resources, the most important being its people.
‘‘This Land is Home to Me’’ is recognized to be one of the most significant statements to emerge from the U.S. Catholic Church and has become a model for groups all over the world that are interested in writing on matters of social justice. More than 200,000 copies of the pastoral are in circulation, and it has been translated into several languages.
Written by Tricia Pyne