Jan Jamroz, Director of Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities, provided the following review and summary of this year’s Catholic at the Capitol in March.
WHY are Catholics encouraged to active participation in the political arena?
The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith. It is a basic part of the mission we have received from Jesus Christ, who offers a vision of life revealed to us in Sacred Scripture and Tradition.
Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011
A little over two months ago, March 19th, 2014, over 100 parishioners from the Diocese of Rockville Centre traveled to Albany to join with Catholics from the other seven dioceses in New York in prayer and witness. In Albany we were 800 strong, a powerful presence to our representatives. Travel for some began as early as 2:00 am from the East End of Long Island in order to catch one of the diocesan buses.
WHO should participate in the political arena?
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.
Pope Francis reminds us in “The Joy of the Gospel” that each of us through baptism is anointed into the family of God in the name of Jesus. When we receive Eucharist, we receive the grace of Jesus to become coworkers in the vineyard–bringing about the reign of God on earth. The dismissal at the end of Mass sends us forth to bring that grace into the world. Each of us is called to participate in the democratic process according to our gifts. While not everyone is called to meet with elected officials, we are all called to be responsible citizens in whatever way we can. There are many ways to participate, as Father John Sureau mentioned in the first article in this series.
Political responsibility involves educating ourselves through reliable sources, studying Scripture and the principles of Catholic social teaching. Over 60 people from our diocese attended a training to pray and to prepare to meet with their elected officials in Albany. Two options of dates, times and locations were available on Long Island for folks to select the training most convenient for them. Education, reflection and prayer are critical in order to communicate the Catholic position with competence. Following prayer, diocesan experts presented at each of the trainings on all five issues, and resources from the New York State Catholic Conference provided folks with the tools necessary to express the Church’s position in Albany. Parishioners who were trained attended 23 meetings, some with the elected official and some with legislative aides. Some legislators were unavailable due to meetings that conflicted with our time in Albany. Many folks expressed their appreciation for the training and resources to prepare them for this day.
HOW were these particular issues selected to present to legislators?
The voices of parishioners need to be heard on behalf of vulnerable children—born and unborn—on behalf of those who suffer discrimination and injustice, on behalf of those without health care or housing, on behalf of our land and water, our communities and neighborhoods. Parishioners need to bring our values and vision into the debates about a changing world and shifting national priorities. This kind of genuine political responsibility strengthens local communities as it enriches the witness of our parishes.
Communities of Salt and Light: Reflections on the Social Mission of the Parish
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 1993
Based on Scripture, our rich tradition of Catholic social teaching and current concerns in policies and legislation in New York, the New York State bishops identified the five issues for 2014 Catholics at the Capitol:Support Humane Treatment for Incarcerated Individuals, Preserve Catholic Schools, Ensure Sufficient Funding for Programs for Vulnerable Populations, Support Equitable Labor Standards for Farmworkers, and Support Pregnant Women and Oppose Expansion of Abortion. Presenting these issues to our legislators demonstrates our Catholic faith in action and the strength of our commitment to live the Gospel. We are called to speak out on behalf of the voiceless, who are our sisters and brothers in Christ.
WHAT did everyone else do in Albany?
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Many of the Long Islanders who traveled to Albany did not have scheduled appointments. We prayed, we learned from one another, we met new people and networked with old friends. Most legislative meetings were finished so all could enjoy a boxed lunch and then process to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where we celebrated Mass with Timothy Cardinal Dolan as the principal celebrant.
The work of public policy advocacy continues daily and it is up to each one of us to pay attention. Here are some easy ways to do this:
-First, make sure you read the LI Catholic website and pay attention to all updates. Recent posts about the Education Investment Tax Credit and medical marijuana appear there. Look in the upcoming weeks, particularly with the conclusion of the legislative session for more updates and calls to action.
-Please sign up to be part of the Catholic Action Network. You can do this easily by going to www.nyscatholic.org. There are recent posts there about our commitment to end Human Trafficking in NY and the Farmworkers Fair Practices Act.
-Pay attention for more details about 2015 Catholics at the Capitol. If you would like to be notified of details for this day in Albany next year, please send your email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org and request that you be added to our electronic mailing list. If you do not have an email address, please call Silvia at 516-733-7078 so we can add you to our mailing list.
Jan Jamroz is the Director of Parish Social Ministry for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Jan and the PSM staff serve as the primary coordinators for Catholics at the Capitol. Jan can be reached directly at Jamroz.Jan@CatholicCharities.cc.