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30 Under 30

Jeffrey Bruno

John Burger - published on 01/01/14

FOCUS is featuring the new generation of movers and shakers in the Church. Who made the cut this year?

Thinking of making a New Year’s Resolution? Take a look at the lives of 30 young Catholic “movers and shakers,” and you might be inspired to make one that will last beyond the first couple of weeks of January.

The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) has announced the results of its 30 Under 30 project to spotlight the lives and work of young Catholics who are making a difference.

FOCUS, which has campus ministry programs on 83 American college campuses, asked readers of its blog for nominations of young Catholic activists, sports figures, artists, or writers. Most of the honorees have been announced; the rest are to be listed by Jan. 6.  

The contest was inspired by an address Pope Francis gave in May, in which he exhorted listeners, “Let us not be afraid of life commitments, commitments that take up and concern our entire life!” FOCUS wanted to spotlight 30 people under the age of 30 “who are making a difference in our Church, men and women who aren’t afraid of making commitments and who are changing the world,” FOCUS’s Kevin Cotter said in announcing the project.

Those honored have shown common qualities, such as idealism and energy, a lack of inhibition in executing ideas that may seem impossible, and the willingness to forgo greater opportunities for service to others or a cause.

“There are so many great things going on in our young Church, and this list gives us a chance to honor a few of these people,” said Curtis Martin, founder and president of FOCUS.

Honorees include some well-known Catholics, such as Lila Rose of Live Action, Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage, Chicago White Sox catcher Tyler Flowers, and blogger Brandon Vogt.

But the list, developed from almost 200 nominations, also features many who are quietly working away at what they love.

Aleteia visited with a few of them:

Back to the Land

Kevin Ford wants not only to be a family farmer but to engender a movement where Catholic families can live close to the land, raising their own crops while rearing children in a Catholic culture.

In 2010, Ford quit his teaching job at a Catholic high school to become a full-time organic vegetable farmer. Along with his wife, Mary, he bought an acre and a half in St. Leo, Kan., about 70 miles west of Wichita.

Ford, 29, sees too many challenges in today’s world to leave raising a family to chance. He wants to revive the Catholic Land Movement that had tried to re-establish an agrarian social economy to counter the industrial regime in early 20th-century Great Britain.

“Throughout the world today, families are in disarray,” he said. “There is little order to be found in modern family life. The New Catholic Land Movement seeks to rebuild order in the life of the family by placing it in an environment where it can truly have integrity.”

He said the Church has repeatedly taught that the rural life is the ideal for the family. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, said in 2006 that the “rural family must regain its place at the heart of the social order.”

But if the Fords are going to be farmers, they want to be in direct contact with the earth, with a minimum of machinery. Ford sees an over-reliance on technology as detrimental to family life.

“Too often a machine has taken the place of meaningful human and family interaction,” he wrote in an article explaining his decision to abandon his former lifestyle. “Dishwashers haven’t decreased the dish loads, but rather increased the sinks full of dishes and decreased important interaction between people, especially children, as they learn to work together. Our family seeks to live simply. We find that with less technology, we suddenly have time for activities we previously couldn’t squeeze in. Without the time in front of the television, we find time to read together, sing and dance with the piano, or simply sit out back in the evenings and watch the chickens scratch about.”

The Fords have two daughters, Rose and Ana, and a baby boy on the way.

They also have a small following of young families who want to establish homesteads and work the land. A couple from Austin, Texas, for example, bought property near the Fords, and the two families comprise Fiat Farms, supplying organic produce to an area cooperative.

Keep reading on the next page

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