By Jeff Caruso, Executive Director of the Virginia Catholic Conference
These quiet days following Election Day 2010 stand in sharp contrast to the noisy chaotic days and months leading up to it. Voters, who carefully weighed the candidates’ positions, and did their part to earn red, white and blue “I Voted’’ stickers may think it’s time to turn their attention elsewhere, having completed their civic duty until next November. At least that’s the temptation.
Our responsibility as Catholic citizens goes well beyond Election Day. We are called to ongoing participation in civic life, and faithful citizenship means participating in that process 365 days a year, prayerfully and with well-formed consciences.
We love one another when we work to uphold the sanctity of life, achieve justice, care for the poor and the forgotten and highlight the importance of the family. In the public square — as Virginians and Americans — we seek to support public policy that serves the common good, especially our brothers and sisters in the human family who are voiceless or vulnerable.
It sounds simple enough: we should strive to ensure that the dignity of the human person is the measuring stick when governments consider legislation, policies and actions. But it’s not always easy to be involved in important issues in our own neighborhoods, much less in Richmond and Washington, D.C. The task of keeping up with issues competes with what’s happening at work, around the dinner table, in our parishes, or in our kids’ schools or playing fields.
That’s one of the reasons that Bishop Loverde and Bishop DiLorenzo of the Diocese of Richmond established the Virginia Catholic Conference: to help Catholics take part in important policy decisions. They recently designated Nov. 13-14 as “Advocacy Sunday” for parishes throughout the Commonwealth to actively recruit new members to our E-mail Advocacy Network. Our e-mail alerts inform our growing membership about policies being debated in areas such as respect for life, religious freedom, poverty reduction, education, family and marriage, and immigration. We provide background on Catholic social teaching pertaining to the issue, and give members who choose to act on that alert the means of immediately contacting their legislators to tell them how they, as constituents, want their representatives to respond to that issue. These pre-drafted e-mails messages can be forwarded “as is” to legislators, or edited to add additional thoughts.
State legislators tell us when they’ve heard from large numbers of constituents. Last spring, our email network members played a critical role in winning a 20-19 state Senate vote to approve new restrictions against state abortion funding. These emails literally saved lives!
More than 100 parishes in the Dioceses of Arlington and Richmond are participating in the Virginia bishops’ Advocacy Sunday campaign, either on Nov. 13-14 or on another weekend close to that time. But you don’t have to wait to sign up for the network. Sign up on our website at any time at www.vacatholic.org and use the convenient “Join the Network!” feature. If you are already enrolled, are there three, four, or even five other people you could invite to join?
There are 650,000 Catholics registered in parishes in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Imagine what could happen if all 650,000 joined their bishops in this collective effort to fight for life, justice, family and the common good.
That is why we’re asking parishioners across Virginia to become a member of the VCC Email Advocacy Network. Join today!