Ligutti, Luigi G.

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Pastor of rural ministry and ecumenist; b. near Udine, Italy, March 21, 1895; d. Rome, Italy, Dec. 28, 1984. He attended primary schools in his native village of Romans and Udine before emigrating to the United States in 1912 and enrolling in St. Ambrose College in Davenport, IA. He completed theological studies at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, and was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Des Moines Sept. 22, 1917. He pursued graduate studies at The Catholic University of America, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago.

After eight years of pastoral ministry he was named pastor of Assumption parish, Granger, IA, where he refined his philosophy of Catholic rural sociology, expressed in the classic work co-authored with John Rawe, SJ, I Rural Roads to Security. He gained national prominence by founding the Granger Homesteads, the first national program of housing for lower income families.

In 1937 Ligutti became executive secretary of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC). Three years later he resigned his parish, moved the headquarters of the Conference to Des Moines and became its first full-time executive secretary. Over the next 20 years he wrote and traveled extensively throughout the United States, speaking before innumerable audiences on the Church and rural life. In his apostolate he joined forces with leaders in the liturgical movement, the National Conference of Catholic Charities, and Catholic Relief Services, making American Catholics more aware of the importance of rural life and its problems. He associated with his counterparts in other Christian churches in promoting these same goals, and thus became one of the earliest ecumenists in the United States. He remained executive director of the NCRLC until 1958 when he subsequently became its director of international affairs.

On July 26, 1948, Ligutti was appointed Vatican Observer to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the first Vatican appointment to any office of the United Nations. What he did for the cause of rural life in the United States he now undertook for the entire globe. In time he became the best known American priest throughout the world. In this office he helped draft the section on agriculture in Pope John XXIII's encyclical I Pacem in terris.

Ligutti served as a consultant to the prepatory commission and subsequently to the conciliar commission on the laity of Vatican Council II. The council's statements on rural life, tithing, and migration are chiefly the results of his efforts.

Following the Council he established I Agrimissio, an organization to assist missionaries in fostering rural values among underprivileged people throughout the world. The closing years of his life were spent in retirement at his home, Villa Stillman, in Rome. Following his death his body was returned to the United States and buried in Assumption parish cemetery in Granger.

Bibliography: v. a. yzermans, The People I Love: A Biography of Luigi G. Ligutti (Collegeville, MN 1976).

[v. a. yzermans]