Catholic Rural Life Chef Jim Ennis – and a BBQ Ribs Recipe | National Catholic Registry

Catholic Rural Life (CRL) has the underlying goal of promoting Catholic life in rural America.

Catholic farmers in rural America’s farmland can thank an active and dedicated organization for defending their land, their crops, and their farm life — and their Catholic faith. This organization is Catholic Rural Life. And the executive director behind the organization is Jim (James) Ennis.

Catholic Rural Life, a nonprofit organization, is located at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Under Ennis’ leadership, the organization, established in 1923, has established local chapters across the country and supports his many ministries such as the Thriving in Rural Ministry Retreats for priests, Native American Awareness for local Native American leaders, the Life in Christ Lay Leadership program and rural ministry internship for seminarians. It is evident that Catholic Rural Life (or CRL) has the underlying purpose of promoting Catholic life in rural America.

Inspired leader Ennis admits he was never born into farming life, but was born and raised a Catholic. Originally from California, raised in an Irish Catholic family, Ennis’ path to his current calling was sidetracked. He strayed from his faith in high school but had a real revival in college after attending a Bible study group.

But his path to food, and then his Catholic faith, began after college when he worked in marketing for many different food companies, such as Pillsbury, the Clorox Company and finally Cooperative Development Services with ties to farmers and sustainability nationwide. Then, in 2006, at a dinner party hosted by a Catholic family, Ennis met a Catholic theologian who confirmed that “the Catholic Church has a lot to say about environmental stewardship.” Ennis began meeting with the Catholic theologian regularly to discuss the intersections of faith, food and the environment.

In 2008 Ennis applied for the position of General Manager of Catholic Rural Life (formerly National Catholic Rural Life Conference) and was hired. Since then, Ennis’ energetic leadership has helped the organization pursue its triple vision of advocating for a more sustainable food supply, rejuvenating the spiritual and economic well-being of rural American communities, and inspiring a sense of wonder. on the natural world.

Ennis’ goal is to help strengthen the Catholic faith in rural America and that has meant working with rural priests and pastors elsewhere. “It has been difficult for priests to cover several rural parishes,” he said, “so what we are doing is organizing retreats across the country, sharing best practices in evangelism and discipleship and how to reach new communities”. He added that the CRL has worked with priests for many years, organizing workshops and conferences to equip clergy and laity in rural leadership.

As he noted, one of the beauties of the organization is that Catholic Rural Life works across the country. At retreats priests share their experiences and challenges in rural America and priests soon realize that they are not alone. “We support their fellowship,” he said, “so that priests have someone to share ideas, good practices and prayers with.”

After two years of hosting these retreats, Ennis said priests return to their home parishes feeling rejuvenated and spiritually refreshed. They have new ideas on how to reach young people. “They are excited about their ministry,” he said, “and realize the Lord wants to do amazing things through them.”

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Dry Rub Pork Ribs on a Gas Grill

Take the following ingredients and mix in a bowl (Scrub From Smoke & Spice: Wild Willy’s Number One-derful Rub)

  • 3/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup coarse, kosher or sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chilli powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

Mix the spices well in a bowl. Keep covered until ready to use.


  1. Take two racks of pork ribs.
  2. Wash them really well when you take them out of the airtight packaging.
  3. Cut the membrane off the ribs and place them in a cake pan the racks can fit in.
  4. Generously coat the rib racks with the dry rub and allow the dry rub to bond to the ribs (30-60 minutes)
  5. Heat the gas grill to 425 degrees. Make sure only the two outer burners are lit, not the inner burner(s).
  6. Place the ribs on one side of the grill in both burners. Do not place the rack of ribs directly over a flame.
  7. Flip the ribs every 5 minutes, switching sides. Be sure to cook the ribs on all four sides. Continue to flip the ribs every 5 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes, wrap each rack of ribs in foil and let sit on the kitchen counter for 10 minutes. Unwrap each square and cut the ribs. Ribs should be juicy and medium-rare.
  9. Enjoy the ribs.
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