A Catholic brother who spoke truth to “the powerful and the short-sighted profit-makers” will be remembered for his work bridging advocacy and religious communities. “Brother Dave” led the National Catholic Rural Life organization and helped found the Organization for Competitive Markets.
David Andrews, a Catholic brother and “truth speaker” who confronted powerful institutions on behalf of marginalized groups such as small farmers and rural residents, died this week at the age of 70.
Known widely as “Brother Dave,” Andrews was a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, an international Catholic religious order of men.
In the second half of a life that included stints as a school teacher and administrator, spiritual retreat-center director and lawyer, Brother Andrews became deeply involved in rural and food policy efforts. His activities included national work to create stronger antitrust regulation against corporate meatpackers, as well as international efforts at the United Nations and the Vatican to relieve hunger and create more just rural economies.
Over the course of more than three decades working in food, hunger, agriculture reform and rural development, Brother Andrews was a one-man architect of social justice advocacy networks, said one co-worker.
“Dave was the epitome of a people person,” said Patty Lovera of Food and Water Watch, where Brother Andrews worked for six years until his retirement last summer. Throughout his long and varied career, he knit people and groups together around his core beliefs in social justice and caring for the environment, she said.
“He bridged the advocacy world and the faith community,” Lovera said.
Brother Andrews’ networking acumen continued throughout his life, even after he became ill. “His hospital room was like a salon,” Lovera said, “with people from various parts of his career dropping by to visit.” These included former students, activists and co-workers.
Brother Andrews died January 5 while undergoing dialysis, according to an announcement from his family.
Brother Andrews directed for 13 years the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, which helped rural congregations and addressed rural social-justice issues. While at Catholic Rural Life, he became involved in trying to protect small farmers by advocating for stronger enforcement of antitrust regulation against poultry and other meatpacking industries.
“Brother Dave has been at the very center of this effort from the very beginning,” said Thomas F. “Fred” Stokes, who first met Andrews in 1998 at a meeting that led to the creation of the Organization for Competitive Markets. The two men served together on the board of that organization, which opposes corporate concentration in the U.S. food system.
“Brother Dave was a strong proponent of fair play and justice,” Stokes said. “He had a religious conscience and perspective.”
Another OCM board member, Mike Callicrate, said Brother Andrews had a strong and calming presence during difficult times. "I remember distinctly the feeling of his presence in the courtroom during [an anti-trust proceeding] in Montgomery, Alabama," Callicrate said. "I was on the witness stand getting pounded by the Tyson/IBP attorneys and the judge. Brother Dave’s presence brought on a calmness and confidence for me in that very stormy place."
Brother Andrews was part of efforts that led to Department of Justice hearings on stronger regulation of the meat industry under the 2008 Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Act (GIPSA). He attended four of the five hearings conducted by DOJ and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was distraught at the lack of action from the Obama administration to enforce antitrust rules against meatpackers.
“The Obama administration lifted up hopes and dashed them to the dustbin of history, unlikely to be re-energized again, a terrible defeat at the hands of the corporate meat industry,” he wrote in a 2012 blog post. “Those of us seeking a just food system will have to work harder now that this effort to occupy the food system has collapsed.”
Though he held strong opinions, he always looked for ways to connect with people who opposed his views, said colleague Barbara Ross.
“While he was vehemently for or against many issues that were of deep concern to him, I never heard him speak a negative word against any human being,” said Ross, director of services for the Diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. “In that regard, he remained neutral or would even try to find something to say that would return some humanity to the person.”
Brother Andrews was born in Mannsfield, Massachusetts, and was one of 10 children, according to an obituary released by the family.
That obituary attributed some of Brother Andrews’ concerns about social justice to his upbringing in a large family. “A truth-speaker, he fearlessly and eloquently voiced concerns about our relationship to the earth and to each other, challenging the complacent, the powerful and the short-sighted profit-makers,” the obituary said.
Brother Andrews was also deeply engaged in international work. He served as a senior adviser to Miguel D’Escoto, president of the 63rd General Assembly of the United Nations, and attended the last three World Trade Organization meetings, World Food Summits and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, according to a 2013 press release.
He served on numerous boards besides that of the Organization for Competitive Markets, including Heifer International, the Community Food Security Coalition, the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
Services for Brother Andrews will be held Friday and Saturday, January 9 and 10, at the St. Joseph Center in Valatie, New York.