|Mrs. Sieracki on LCUSA Board (farthest left)|
Advocacy ConnectionsCatholic Social Ministry Gathering
The 2012 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG), organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was held in Washington, D.C., Feb. 12-15. Ladies of Charity USA is one of 14 Catholic organizations partnering with USCCB in this annual event. Rita Robinson, a Lady of Charity from the Archdiocese of Washington and I represented LCUSA among 450 registrants from across the country. Several Daughters of Charity were also present, including Sister Julie Cutter who serves on the LCUSA board of directors.
Faithful Citizenship: Protecting Human Life and Dignity, Promoting the Common Good was the title of the conference. The opening presentation by John Carr, executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, USCCB, addressed the bishops’ document, Forming Consciences forFaithful Citizenship, which aims to stimulate greater insight into public policy issues in light of Catholic social teaching.
Dr. Carolyn Woo, president of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) was the plenary speaker on international issues. CRS is present in over 100 countries, working with the people they serve to identify what is needed by listening, not commanding. In humility, they believe solutions must be developed “on the ground.” The plenary session on domestic issues featured Dr. Arturo Chavez, president of the Mexican American Catholic College in San Antonio. He spoke about the challenges and aspirations of the Latino community in the United States and some of the difficulties encountered in working to reconcile Catholic principles with cultural attitudes.
In conjunction with other Christian leaders, USCCB is urging that a Circle of Protection be established around the programs and resources essential to safeguard the lives and dignity of the poor and vulnerable in our nation and around the world. Everyone in attendance received training on priority issues in preparation for visits to representatives and senatorson Capitol Hill.On Tuesday, February 14th, CSMG participants lobbied Congress on behalf of extending the period of eligibility for unemployment benefits and for preservation of the Child Tax Credit. A bi-partisan agreement on these two goals was announced the next day.
Two other issues presented during the congressional visits are still unresolved. Legislators were asked to work on the release of humanitarian funding for Palestinians and were also asked to co-sponsor and support bills pending in both the House and the Senate which will protect religious liberty and conscience rights in light of the recent unprecedented and very narrow definition of what constitutes a religious organization. Participants stressed that our hospitals and charities serve people not because those in need are Catholic, but because we are Catholic.
Attendance at this conference brought a strong reminder that ours is a universal church. Participants came from many age groups and ethnic backgrounds. The liturgies were multi-cultural and several languages and native costumes were represented. Bishops Jaime Soto of Sacramento and Richard E. Pates of Des Moines presided at the opening and closing Masses.
The summary message of the CSMG was a call to Congress and the administration to give moral priority to programs and policies that protect the life and dignity of those who are poor and vulnerable and to protect religious liberty, conscience and the freedom of Catholic ministries to serve “the least of these” (Matt. 25).