OLYMPIA – Each year, Judy Walker finds it a little easier to meet with state legislative aides and advocate for social justice and environmental issues as part of Catholic Advocacy Day.
“I feel more comfortable going every year,” said Walker, a member of St. James Cathedral Parish, who has participated in the event for about 14 years.
Walker was among some 300 Catholics from across the state who traveled to the state capital February 20 to learn about issues of importance to the state’s bishops, hear from those who benefit from Catholics’ advocacy efforts, and then meet with lawmakers to seek support.
This year, the group of 14 parishioners from the cathedral visited with the legislative aides for their 43rd District legislators to lobby for more affordable housing, improved access for programs that help families in need, and better clean fuel standards.
“We’re kind of in the minority to go to Olympia to advocate for people who are mostly strangers,” said Jim Thomas, senior policy analyst for the Washington State Catholic Conference, which represents the state’s bishops on matters of public policy.
Before the meetings with legislators, participants learned more about key issues, including training for hotel workers to identify human trafficking and repeal of the death penalty.
Among those attending, “there was an interest in homelessness in general,” said Patty Bowman, executive director of the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, which organized the event. Participants listened as two women who live in low-income residences shared their stories.
The morning session included a presentation about the budget process, because “so much of our advocacy connects with issues of the state budget,” Bowman said.
The day offers an opportunity to dialogue with fellow Catholics, which Walker said is “incredibly important,” even if they might not completely agree with each other.
George Keefe, a member of St. Patrick Parish in Seattle who lives in Edmonds, met with his 21st District legislators to discuss clean energy, along with repealing the death penalty and other social justice issues. He also attended two legislative hearings while he was in Olympia for the day.
“I think advocacy is productive,” Keefe said. “It takes patience.”
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