OLYMPIA – More than 600 Catholics from around the Archdiocese of Seattle will talk to state legislators about housing, health care and fair treatment legislation during Catholic Advocacy Day March 16.
“It’s an inspiring day to see our church in the public square giving voice to people who are poor and vulnerable so our legislators are educated about poverty in our districts,” said Josephine Tamayo Murray, vice president for public policy for Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington.
The challenge this year, she said, is securing funding to preserve programs when the Legislature is tasked by the courts with fully funding K-12 education.
There’s still time to sign up for Catholic Advocacy Day (the deadline is Feb. 24), sponsored CCS/CHS, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, the Washington State Catholic Conference, the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Buses are available from 10 locations around Western Washington.
This year, a pastoral letter on poverty from Washington state’s bishops is uppermost on the minds of those organizing the event.
“We’re trying to build on the bishops’ letter advocating for our neighbor,” said Patty Bowman, IPJC’s executive director.
People planning to attend include Danielle Imboden, a teacher at St. Joseph School in Chehalis, who is bringing 24 seventh- and eighth-graders with her. By standing up and saying what’s right, Imboden said, students learn “this is what it looks like to live the teachings of Jesus.”
Going to Catholic Advocacy Day is a privilege, said Allison Hutchinson, a parishioner at St. Rose de Viterbo in Longview. “We can come as a speaker or silent witnesses,” said Hutchinson, who will attend with members of her parish’s Social Justice Commission. “The important thing is to have people there.”
Dominican Sister Sharon Park gives a legislative briefing at St. Michael Church in Olympia during Catholic Advocacy Day in 2016. Photo: Courtesy Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center
After legislative briefings, Mass at St. Michael Church in Olympia and lunch, participants will head to the state Capitol to meet with their legislators. Everyone who registers is matched with the senators or representatives from their districts.
For those who have never participated in Catholic Advocacy Day, it’s an opportunity to see the legislative process in action — and make a difference, said Dominican Sister Sharon Park, executive director of the WSCC. She said lawmakers have told her: “If I had the information you gave me today, I would have voted differently.”
This year’s legislative priorities include:
- Increasing funding for the Housing Trust Fund.
- Maintaining home care services for elderly and disabled.
- Reforming the financial obligation system for former offenders and improving their opportunities for employment.
- Reducing the number of people living in poverty and increasing TANF grants.
- Promoting a safe environment for oil transport.
- Providing access to health care for all, including access to mental health services.
“We have a role and responsibility and obligation to participate,” Sister Sharon said. “The poor have a claim on us.” Although people may differ about which policies will best serve society’s most vulnerable, the goal is ensuring that people have the best lives possible, she said.
The work will not stop after March 16. “This is just the beginning,” Bowman said, encouraging people to participate as citizens all year, not just on one day.
“We can make a difference,” Sister Sharon said. “We have made a difference.”