On February 1, 1975, 25 Catholic bishops from Appalachia released a pastoral letter called “This Land is Home to Me.” It was officially distributed from Wheeling College (now Wheeling Jesuit University).
It was written in response to a report from the Catholic Committee of Appalachia, highlighting the region’s economic and political inequalities. For a year, committee members traveled throughout Appalachia and collected stories of hardship from individuals and from community and church groups. The committee members then folded these stories into the pastoral letter.
The letter is considered one of the most significant statements to emerge from the U.S. Catholic Church. It’s become a model for groups all over the world that want to promote social justice. More than 200,000 copies of the pastoral letter are in circulation, and it’s been translated into several languages.
In 1995, the Catholic Committee of Appalachia marked the 20th anniversary of the original message with a follow-up letter entitled, ‘‘At Home in the Web of Life: A Pastoral Message on Sustainable Communities in Appalachia.” The 1995 letter urged responsible stewardship of the land and its resources, particularly its people.