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.