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January 4, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 5

COMMENTARY

Advocates must be heard

Unlike previous years when the Virginia General Assembly was in session, there will no longer be the one-day event known as Catholic Advocacy Day.

The spirit and purpose of what was known as Catholic Advocacy Day is still important. In fact, a new approach will hopefully expand grass roots participation among Catholics who seek legislation which helps the poor and upholds Christian values.

Attendance at Catholic Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Virginia Catholic Conference, always hinged on the weather conditions of the day. Rain or snow was often a factor which cut down on the number of people from parishes and Catholic schools who had to travel long distances to get to Virginia’s capital with the purpose of seeing their elected state senators and delegates and urge them to vote for or not support proposed laws.

The Virginia Catholic Conference was most effective in explaining the reasons for the stand it took. Catholic advocates were given a list of talking points meant to help them discuss the issues in an intelligent manner and show why they were asking for a senator’s or delegate’s support to pass or defeat a specific law. The VCC helped set up appointments to see the legislators from their district.

But in reality, often that person was not in his or her office at the appointed time. Advocates then had to address their concerns to a legislative aide and hope that he or she would relay their views to the elected official.

With prayer as a background and impetus for being a Catholic advocate, Catholic legislators and political leaders from other denominations, and both major political parties as well, are invited to join diocesan and parish leaders at a Vespers service on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart.

The invitation is being extended by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of Richmond and Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, both of whom will be present.

Those who attend may wish to mingle after the Vespers service at a reception featuring wine and appetizers. This may be an opportunity to get to know your state senator or delegate in a prayerful and relaxed setting.

An opening might be made to let him or her know that we take our civic responsibility seriously and we want to follow up to gain their support on issues we feel are important.

Catholics may also visit the offices of the Virginia Catholic Conference in Richmond on either Tuesday, Jan. 26, or Thursday, Feb. 4. Here they will meet informally with VCC staff and receive a packet of current issues along with talking points to explain why the VCC feels the way it does.

With a national presidential election this coming November, it is important that Catholics stay involved in the legislative process.

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