Protecting the Holy Land of Appalachia

Glenmary News

Protecting the Holy Land of Appalachia

An allegedly reclaimed strip-mining site, above, shows that sparse fast-growing seed passes for reclaimed forest. Father Rausch made a career of bringing pilgrimage groups to Appalachia for education about environmental issues and prayer.

The Home Missioners of America (Glenmary) and the Foreign Mission Society of America (Maryknoll) have some things in common, like mission education. In the summer of 2018 Maryknoll sponsored a mission trip to Appalachia, hosted by the late Glenmary Father John Rausch.

In an era when our Church is challenging us to consider how we care for creation, Father John guided groups on pilgrimages in Appalachian Kentucky, pointing out the beauty of the land, along with sustainable ways to overcome the consequences of strip mining and mountaintop removal.  He called Appalachia a “Holy Land.” Indeed, all of God’s creation is sacred.

Come along on a photo-pilgrimage with Father John.

In Wolfe County, Kentucky, Renee Powell explains her solar panel to visitors.


To plant Chestnut trees trees is a sign of renewal. Theresa Johnson (left) plants a tree brought by University of Kentucky forester Chris Barton, (far right). Deacon Paul Bork uses Chris’s shovel to turn the earth. The trees will reclaim the barren landscape of Appalachian strip-mining.


A greenhouse in Berea, Ky., nurtures the seeds of native plants, modeling growth in an earth-friendly manner. This approach is in contrast to the homogenous approach of agri-business.


Glenmary Father John S. Rausch, who died Feb. 9, 2020, was a life-long advocate for the people of Appalachia and caring for God’s creation. He’s pictured here with Cherie McDiffet at job-developing Heritage Kitchens in Berea, Ky.


This photo story by John Feister first appeared in the Autumn 2018 edition of Glenmary Challenge magazine.