OLYMPIA – More than 500 Catholics from around the archdiocese met with state legislators Feb. 8 to advocate for those in need.
“Just the sheer numbers and presence of people, it’s encouraging,” said Deacon Samuel Basta of St. Louise Parish in Bellevue, who was attending his fourth Catholic Advocacy Day.
Before the meetings with elected officials, participants gathered at St. Michael Church in Olympia for Mass, legislative briefings and testimony about the realities of being homeless.
Nancy Buergel, a parishioner from St. Madeleine Sophie Parish in Bellevue, said she was inspired by a woman who told her story about becoming homeless in her 60s. “It really puts a face on it, what we’re advocating for,” said Buergel, who attends Catholic Advocacy Day every year.
Catholic Advocacy Day participants sit through a legislative briefing at St. Michael Parish in Olympia on Feb. 8. Photo: Courtesy of the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center
The event was sponsored by the Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center, the Washington State Catholic Conference, Catholic Community/Housing Services of Western Washington, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the Archdiocese of Seattle and its Pierce County Deanery.
Sister Sharon Park, executive director of the WSCC, said she is always amazed at how many new people attend Catholic Advocacy Day. Joining the effort is important, she said, because hearing what constituents have to say can make a difference in how a legislator votes.
Participants were asked to talk to their legislators about supporting a variety of social justice issues and legislation, including a bill to ease the standards for reducing or waiving interest on offenders’ court-imposed debts.
Sister Sharon related the story of a woman who owed about $3,000 in restitution after being released from jail. With a compounded interest rate of 12 percent, the woman would spend years working to repay her debt while trying to make a fresh start. “This is one of the things we’re saying is not right,” Sister Sharon explained.
The legislation has passed the state House and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
During Catholic Advocacy Day, Catholics also pushed to increase funding for housing and mental health treatment, restore lost funds to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, require parental notification for a minor seeking an abortion and abolish the death penalty.
Funding challenges mean some of these issues won’t be included in the budget, but “I think mostly everyone felt it was a good day to advocate for the poor,” said Josephine Tamayo Murray, CCS vice president for public policy.
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