Come to Catholic Advocacy Day on March 24
By Michele Chan Santos
Tuesday, March 24 is Texas Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day. On this day, the bishops of Texas will gather with thousands of Catholics at the State Capitol in Austin for an 11:30 a.m. rally to support the Catholic Church’s values of life, justice and charity.
Supporters wearing royal blue will visit state senators and representatives after the rally. Those who cannot attend can pray for the bishops and the many volunteers at the Capitol. They can also contact their own state senator or representative to say they support the bishops’ values and concerns.
It’s best to call on March 24, or the day before or after, said Barbara Budde, director of Social Concerns for the Diocese of Austin.
“Faithful citizenship calls us to be engaged,” Budde said. “We are not afraid of being political.”
The bishops of Texas support the values of the Gospel, Budde said. She described the events of Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day as “political and strictly non-partisan.”
Catholic values do not line up with the political platform of a single party, she said.
“While we applaud the legislature’s efforts to limit and end abortion, we also call on the legislature to limit and end the death penalty,” Budde said.
On Advocacy Day, the bishops and participants will address a broad range of issues, including advance medical directives reform, school choice tax credit scholarships, payday lending, Medicaid expansion and regulation of abortion facilities.
The bishops’ agenda for this year’s legislative session is available through the Texas Catholic Conference website. It addresses many areas, including human life and dignity, criminal justice, health and human services, children and family, immigration and education.
“It’s extremely important for the faithful to join Bishop Vásquez and show their legislators that voters care about these issues,” Budde said. “We especially need people to call from outlying counties.”
Budde urged Catholics to contact their state representative and senator in the Texas legislature (to be clear, not your U.S. representative and senator in Washington). Calling is better than emailing, she said. She suggested saying, “I support the agenda of the bishops of Texas and particularly the issues brought to light on Catholic Faith in Action Advocacy Day.”
Theresa Stephens is the outreach coordinator at St. Thomas More Parish in Austin. Last year was her first time volunteering at Advocacy Day.
“I was very nervous at the beginning,” Stephens recalled. “Goodness! Before I took this job as outreach coordinator, I really was not very politically inclined. I really did not feel qualified for such a big task as meeting with a state representative. I was so blessed to have our Social Justice team from St. Thomas More to go with me and help lead me through the process. We met with State Representative Tony Dale. It really went much better than I anticipated.”
Stephens said she was impressed with “how active our priests, bishops and archbishops of Texas are in urging our politicians to vote for what’s best according to our Catholic social teachings, including the life and dignity of every human person, protection of every human’s rights and responsibilities, having a preference for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work and rights for workers, solidarity and care for God’s creation.”
Stephens urged Catholics to make an effort to contact their state representative.
“Too many times, we think, ‘I’m just one person, what can I do against this big political mass of government.’ Until it personally affects us,” Stephens said. “Until I’m the one out of a job, or my kids are the ones who can’t get in to a good school, or I’m the homeless one. When we take action before that becomes a reality in our lives, we have created not just a safety net for those currently experiencing the pains of oppression or injustice, we have created a safety net for our own futures.”
The full legislative agenda of the Texas Catholic Conference is on the TCC website at www.txcatholic.org. To find the name and contact information for state representatives and senators visit www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/Home.aspx.