Social Justice: Faithful citizenship is more than voting

By Barbara Budde
Columnist

For all who voted –– thank you. For those who did not vote, you can practice faithful citizenship still. Everyone, please know that our work is just beginning! Our responsibility to act as faithful citizens does not begin or end at the ballot box. Now we have to do the long, hard work of sharing our vision and values with those who were elected. 
We have a Catholic as governor of the state and that is very good news; however, our new governor will need a great deal of support to bring the values we share as Catholics to our state government. The platforms and membership of both political parties have areas of agreement and disagreement with Catholic teaching. Our role is to continue to make our voices heard to all levels of government –– speaking out for the poor and vulnerable; for the unborn and those on death row; for the immigrant and every person who is marginalized for any reason to create the change envisioned by the Gospel.
Our country and our state face some difficult and challenging times. We do not yet have a society that respects human life and dignity from conception to death or that supports persons and families throughout their lives. Though the economy is recovering, it seems to be benefitting a few while many continue to struggle. We know that the Gospel calls us to work for the common good over our individual desires and to care especially for the poor and vulnerable among us. Political parties are tallying wins and losses for “their” side and proclaiming mandates for their priorities. However, we are called to ignore sides and to work for the values that flow from God’s vision: protecting human life, promoting family life, pursuing social justice and practicing global solidarity.
Here are some things we can begin to do right now:
Send a note or e-mail to the winning candidates and congratulate them. Explain to them that as a faithful citizen, you hope to communicate your vision and values to them frequently and that you wish to begin a dialogue on the issues facing our state and our nation.
Get to know the key staff members of all elected officials and let them know that you will be communicating with them. Staff members are crucial in briefing legislators and being able to communicate with staff is often the best way to get your message to the ears of our elected officials.
Sign up with Catholic groups to receive issue briefings. Some of the the major groups that work on state and national issues are listed here.
For information on Texas legislative matters; sign up for the Texas Catholic Voice run by the Texas Catholic Conference at www.txcatholic.org/texas-catholic-network. 
For information on International issues, sign up for action alerts from Catholic Relief Services and the International Office of USCCB at www.confrontglobalpoverty.org/get-involed/action-center/.
For information on domestic policies regarding health, human services, poverty, housing and others, sign up for Catholic Charities USA, Washington weekly and action alerts at http://catholiccharitiesusa.org/our-solutions/campaign-to-reduce-poverty/. 
For information on pro-life issues, sign up for the National Committee for a Human Life Amendment at www.nchla.org. 
For information from the USCCB department of Justice Peace and Human Development, visit their webpage at http://www.usccb.org/about/justice-peace-and-human-development/.
Plan to participate in the Catholic Advocacy day at the State Capitol on March 24. There are ways you can participate without even leaving home. Find out how by contacting Barbara Budde at barbara-budde@austindiocese.org or by calling at (512) 949-2471. 
Thanks to all who voted, we now ask everyone to follow up with advocacy. There is much left to do and together we can accomplish a great deal. We know we have God’s grace with us, please add your time and energy! 

Barbara Budde is the diocesan director of social concerns. She can be reached at (512) 949-2471 or barbara-budde@austindiocese.org.