Finding shelter for homeless people and families living on the cusp of poverty may seem like an overwhelming issue.
But local Catholics can take steps to help by talking to their state legislators about such important issues during Catholic Advocacy Day in Olympia.
“One small thing we can each do is advocate,” said Nancy Buergel, a parishioner at St. Madeleine Sophie Parish in Bellevue, who will ride a charter bus to the Feb. 8 event.
Attending Catholic Advocacy Day, as she has for the past few years, is another way to show her concern for the underserved, said Buergel, who is part of her parish’s Society of St. Vincent de Paul outreach. “The experience for me is very fulfilling as a citizen and as a Catholic.”
Each year, Catholics from parishes around the Seattle Archdiocese converge on the state capital for Catholic Advocacy Day, 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.
Chartered buses from several sites around the archdiocese will transport parishioners to St. Michael Church in Olympia, where they will learn more about issues of importance to the Catholic community this legislative session and attend Mass.
Then participants will head to the Capitol Campus, where 130 appointments have been set up so they can have “meaningful conversations” with their state senators and representatives, said Sister Linda Haydock, IPJC’s executive director.
“The purpose is to bring our faith into the public square,” Sister Linda said.
This year, the Catholic agenda includes asking legislators to add $10 million to the Washington State Housing Trust Fund, which funds affordable housing projects, and to restore lost funds to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
The proposed state budget includes $75 million in the Housing Trust Fund to build 1,900 affordable homes and provide 500 beds for seasonal workers. But additional money is needed to help the rising number of people who lack four walls and a bed of their own, said Josephine Tamayo Murray, CCS’ vice president for public policy.
“Even though the economy is improving, it’s not improving for everyone,” Murray said. “Many people are still living in poverty.”
Although state legislators face a variety of funding challenges this year — basic education, the cost of fighting wildfires and Medicaid’s increasing caseloads — Catholics need to let legislators know these services are critically needed in their communities, Murray said.
Other legislation of importance identified by the Washington State Catholic Conference includes bills that would significantly increasing mental health funding, abolish the death penalty, require parental notification for a minor considering an abortion, eliminate the use of five toxic flame retardants and ease standards for reducing or waiving interest on offenders’ court-imposed debts (except victim restitution).
Robert King is among the Catholics who will be meeting with legislators on Catholic Advocacy Day. It’s the first time he’ll be attending the event.
“The political process is pretty new to me. I vote and that’s been about it,” said King, a pastoral associate at Holy Rosary Parish in Edmonds, where his responsibilities include issues of justice and peace.
“I am looking forward to seeing firsthand how our political process works,” King said, “and how my faith and action can have an impact on that.”
Sign up for Catholic Advocacy Day
It’s not too late to attend Catholic Advocacy Day on Feb. 8 in Olympia.
Learn more about the Washington state bishops’ concerns during the 2016 state legislative session.
- Tickets still available for this weekend’s Cornerstone Catholic Conference
- What can I do about our polarized politics?
- ¿Qué puedo hacer acerca de nuestra política tan polarizada?
- Catholics talk social justice, pro-life issues with lawmakers on Catholic Advocacy Day
- Annual pro-life, social justice events will bring Catholics to Olympia