Faith and Migration in Rural America Lecture in Rehm Library

Nathan Howard ’25

Chief News Editor

On February 27, 2023 the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture hosted Kristy Nabhan-Warren as part of their Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity series. Nabhan-Warren is the V. O. and Elizabeth Kahl Figge Chair of Catholic Studies as well as a professor in the Departments of Religious Studies and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa. Throughout her career, Professor Nabhan-Warren spent years interviewing Iowans who work in the state’s meatpacking industry, including both native born residents and migrants from Latin America, Africa, and Asia, to better understand the connection between migration and religious communities. 

Professor Nabhan-Warren published her first book in 2005 titled The Virgin of El Barrio: Marian Apparitions, Catholic Evangelizing, and Mexican American Activism. Her first book explores the formation and spread of a Catholic evangelizing group called Mary’s Ministries, as well as the international expansion of their message. Professor Nabhan-Warren also published her second book in September 2013 in the University of North Carolina Press, titled The Cursillo Movement in America: Catholics, Protestants, and Fourth-Day Spirituality. Professor Nabhan-Warren’s second book explored the internationally growing Cursillo movement, meaning “short course in Christianity,” which was founded in 1944 but has gained popularity among American Christians, including both Catholics and Protestants. A prominent event in the Cursillo movement is a lay-led weekend experience that allows Chrisitan participants to recommit to their religious faith. Professor Nabhan-Warren’s book reveals how American cursillistas “have privileged the individual religious experience and downplayed denominational and theological differences in favor of a common identity as renewed people of faith.” Another important aspect of Professor Nabhan-Warren’s The Cursillo Movement in America is her focus on the important role Latino Catholics have played in spreading the Cursillo movement. Specifically, Professor Nabhan-Warren argues that the stories of Latino Catholic cursillistas “guide us toward a new understanding of contemporary Christian identities, inside and outside U.S. borders, and of the importance of globalizing American religious boundaries.”

Professor Nabhan-Warren’s lecture in Rehm Library primarily focused on her third book titled Meatpacking America: How Migration, Work, and Faith Unite and Divide the Heartland, which was published in the University of North Carolina Press in 2021. In her lecture, Nabhan-Warren shared the stories of both native born Iowans and recent migrants to reveal how faith and morals act as a “mutual language” to unite diverse communities throughout the heartland. While interviewing Catholics, Protestants, and Muslims who work in Iowa’s notorious meatpacking plants, Professor Nabhan-Warren uncovered two important connections between members of the different religious groups, mainly “their passion for religious faith and desire to work hard for their families.” Additionally, Professor Nabhan-Warren writes how “Their stories expose how faith-based aspirations for mutual understanding blend uneasily with rampant economic exploitation and racial biases” but “these new and old midwesterners say that a mutual language of faith and morals brings them together more than any of them would have ever expected.”

At the conclusion of her lecture, Professor Nabhan-Warren held a question and answer session in regards to topics discussed and thanked members of the faculty, staff, and students who attended.

Featured image of Nabhan-Warren’s book covers

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