OLYMPIA – Some 300 Catholics from 49 parishes around the archdiocese converged on the state capital Feb. 21 in a display of solidarity with those in need.
The 26th annual Catholic Advocacy Day was an opportunity for regular Catholics to become lobbyists — learning more about the legislative priorities of the state’s bishops and then meeting with state legislators to discuss those issues.
“Despite fresh snowfall and freezing temperatures, the participants that took part in Catholic Advocacy Day displayed much positive energy and engagement,” Joe Sprague, executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, wrote in an email.
Guided by the theme “Standing with our Neighbors,” the day began at St. Michael Parish in Olympia with briefings on the bishops’ positions on a variety of social justice legislation being considered by the Legislature.
Dennis Bateman, who works with homeless men, shares his story of going from living on the streets to living in an apartment operated by Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services during Catholic Advocacy Day Feb. 21 at St. Michael Church in Olympia.
They heard from speakers, including Dennis Bateman, who shared his story of going from living on the streets to living in an apartment operated by Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services of Western Washington, and now working with homeless men. Organizers said Bateman emphasized the importance of parishioners’ advocacy in making a difference for people like him.
Next was Mass, concelebrated by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain and Auxiliary Bishops Eusebio Elizondo and Daniel Mueggenborg.
Then participants headed to the Capitol Campus to meet with legislators and legislative aides from their districts to have a dialogue about the issues.
“Folks were asked to emphasize five bills that are each currently at a critical stage in the Legislature,” Sprague said (see box).
In addition, Bishops Mueggenborg and Elizondo met with key legislative leaders, including Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Sprague said. The bishops also met with Catholic Advocacy Day participants in between meetings with legislators, he said.
Bishop Mueggenborg said it was the first time he had participated in an event like Catholic Advocacy Day and he came away impressed.
Catholics from state Legislative District 46 meet with Rep. Javier Valdez, one of their representatives from the district that includes Kenmore, Bothell, Lake Forest Park and part of Seattle. Photo: Courtesy Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center
“It is certainly important that we pray about issues that we face and decisions of our government leaders … but along with our prayer, we also want to be mindful of the opportunities we have for action so that we can become active members of the body of Christ,” the bishop said. “We pray and we act. And we did that on Catholic Advocacy Day.”
Participants had “very cordial and respectful, but also very direct, meetings with our elected officials and to basically voice our particular concerns as members of the body of Christ,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.
Catholic Advocacy Day was sponsored by the WSCC, the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, the Archdiocese of Seattle, Catholic Community Services/Catholic Housing Services and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Issues at a critical juncture
These are the five issues highlighted by Catholic Advocacy Day in meetings with their legislators:
Legal Financial Obligations – Asked senators to support HB 1783 to reform the LFO system and to help former offenders integrate back into society. (The House has passed the bill.)
Homeless Housing and Assistance – Asked senators to support HB 1570, which would extend the document recording fee and increase it from $40 to $90, to assist in preventing homelessness. (The House has passed the bill.)
TANF Resource Limits – Asked senators to support HB 1831 so people receiving temporary assistance to needy families (TANF) won’t be cut off from public assistance because they have a vehicle valued at more than $5,000 and related resources necessary for daily living. (The House has passed the bill.)
Death Penalty – Asked representatives to repeal the death penalty by supporting SB 6052. (The Senate has passed the bill.)
Abortion Insurance Mandate – Asked representatives to protect conscience rights and religious liberty by opposing SB 6219, which mandates abortion coverage in insurance plans. (The Senate has passed the bill.)
Let your Catholic voice be heard
Sign up for advocacy bulletins from the Washington State Catholic Conference.
Find out what’s happening in Olympia, with links for contacting your legislators.
Call the state’s legislative hotline, 800-562-6000 to make your opinions known on bills being considered by the Legislature.
- Catholics meet legislators to advocate for the poor and vulnerable
- Catholics head to Olympia February 20 to advocate for the vulnerable, environment
- Catholics talk social justice, pro-life issues with lawmakers on Catholic Advocacy Day
- Annual pro-life, social justice events will bring Catholics to Olympia
- Bishop Mueggenborg testifies against death penalty