ST. PAUL, MINN. — When St. Paul Seminary professor Chris Thompson recently went searching for the top agriculture programs at U.S. Catholic universities, what he found — or, rather, what he didn’t find — shocked him: There aren’t any.
He made the discovery after receiving an invitation to present a paper on developments in American agriculture over the past 50 years at a conference in Rome in May.
“There seems to be no presence of [agriculture] as a focused discipline or professional formation in [any of the 244] Catholic universities across the board,” he said in an interview at the seminary, where he is academic dean. “That’s how I became the expert.”
Thompson serves on the board of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference and has lectured and participated in conferences on Catholic social thought regarding the environment. He is slated to teach a seminary course on the topic in the fall.
“How can it be that the single largest economic force in the country has no presence or standing in the modern Catholic university?” he asked. And, he added, what impact does that have, not only on Catholics interested in farming as a career, but also on society at large?