Speaker Bios


Cardinal Peter Turkson – President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (Rome)

One of the Vatican’s most influential leaders, Cardinal Turkson has headed the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace since 2009. Globally regarded as an authority on the ethics of ecology, he provided the first draft of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. Cardinal Turkson has consistently highlighted the moral dimensions of agriculture, emphasizing the need for equitable food distribution and the responsible use of biotechnology. The Ghanaian native was considered by many as a potential successor of Pope Benedict XVI during the 2012 papal conclave. His keynote address at the symposium will connect Pope Francis’ encyclical with the challenges of modern agriculture.


Mr. James Ennis – Executive Director, Catholic Rural Life and President, International Catholic Rural Association (U.S.)

Prior to becoming the executive director of Catholic Rural Life (CRL) in 2008, Mr. James Ennis had worked for three Fortune 500 companies over nine years before transitioning to the non-profit sector, where he has worked for the past 19 years. Ennis possesses a unique combination of expertise in both agricultural issues and faith-based initiatives. He earned his undergraduate degree from University of California-Davis in agricultural and managerial economics, and spent time in the African nation of Zambia working in student ministry. In addition to his leadership of CRL, Ennis is also currently the president of the International Catholic Rural Association (ICRA), which is based in Rome. He works from CRL’s headquarters in St. Paul, Minn.


Mr. Doug Peterson – President, Minnesota Farmers Union

First elected in 2002, Doug Peterson ha snow served seven consecutive terms as the preisdent of Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU). Prior to his election, Peterson was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for twelve years. A native of Madison, Minn., hsi district included many rural communities in Western minnesota. From his time in the legislature and also as president of MFU, Peterson has gained recognition across the state as a leader of and an advocate for rural communities. He also serves as the secretary of National Farmers Union, the board chair of Farmers Union Enterprises, and is a voting delegate of the World Farmers Organisation.


Dr. Christopher Thompson – Academic Dean, Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity (St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.)

Since 2006, Dr. Christopher Thompson has served as the academic dean of the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, where he also teaches moral theology. An expert in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, Dr. Thompson has also written extensively on the connection between Catholic moral teaching and care for the environment. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Chapelstone Foundation, an organization that promotes the concept of “Green Thomism,” and is also a board member of Catholic Rural Life and the International Catholic Rural Association. Dr. Thompson will speak on the Project of the Vocation of the Leader in Agriculture.


Dr. Calvin DeWitt – Professor, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin (Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.)

An expert on faith-based environmental stewardship, Dr. Calvin DeWitt has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin’s Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies for over four decades. Dr. DeWitt’s early work focused on the stewardship and care of wetland ecologies. Over the years he has worked with local and state governments to develop sustainable water-usage practices that maintain groundwater flow to springs and wetlands. An Evangelical Christian, Dr. DeWitt is also a leader among faith-based coalitions that aim to connect Christian theology and ethics with environmental stewardship. At the symposium, Dr. DeWitt will speak on the subject of “Food Production and Climate Change.”


Prof. Vincenzo Buonomo


Prof. Leonardo Becchetti


Stephen Kagoro


Jose Fernando Arancibia Martinez


Fr. Rene Tacastacas


Michel-Thierry Dupont


Dr. Paolo Groppo


Evelyn Nguleka