Catholics Confront Global Poverty may be the perfect project for the Social Justice or Social Concerns committee at your parish. Planning activities to educate the parish about poverty may encourage parish members to engage in advocacy with Members of Congress about the seven issues of focus at usccb.org/globalpoverty, including foreign assistance, peace, debt relief, trade, natural resources, climate change, and migration.
Suggestions for Social Justice/Concern committees
- At usccb.org/globalpoverty, sign up your parish to be part of the one million Catholic voices raised up to confront global poverty. This will also allow you to get regular updates about new resources and ways you can be involved in Catholics Confront Global Poverty in the future.
- Put quotations from Catholic social teaching on topics related to global poverty in your parish bulletin on a regular basis. For sample bulletin quotations, go to usccb.org/globalpoverty/ccgp_waystopray_parish.shtml.
- For seven weeks, include an announcement in your bulletin about one of the seven podcasts about global poverty at usccb.org/globalpoverty.
- Organize a special prayer service or vigil for global poverty. At the service, lift up each of the seven issues of focus on the Catholics Confront Global Poverty website (usccb.org/globalpoverty).
- Help integrate concern for our sisters and brothers in poverty into the general intercessions at Mass. Pre-written intercessions are available at usccb.org/globalpoverty/ccgp_waystopray_parish.shtml.
- Encourage your parish to purchase Fair Trade Coffee for all parish activities. If you parish already uses Fair Trade Coffee, encourage parishioners to buy Fair Trade Coffee to drink at home. For more information, visit crsfairtrade.org.
- For fundraisers, encourage your local parish to consider hosting a “Work of Human Hands” sale or selling Fair Trade Chocolate. For more information, visit crsfairtrade.org.
- Conduct a parish Food Fast to educate parishioners about poverty and hunger worldwide. For more information, go to foodfast.org/.
- Consider initiating a sister parish relationship with a parish in a developing country. Contact your diocesan office for social ministry for information about establishing these relationships and to identify other parishes that have done so.
- Offer parish awareness-building sessions to discuss extreme poverty and its consequences.
- View the DVD, The Line in the Sand: Stories from the U.S. Mexico Border, available from crs.org. This stage drama by Villanova University theater students tells the story of immigration from all sides of the issue.
- Someone from the local university, returning missionaries and aid workers, or even an informed parishioner can share stories about the impact of extreme poverty.
- Start a book club at your parish. Select books that discuss the impact of poverty or tell the personal story of an individual or family. Your local library can help identify titles.
Advocacy Guidelines (adapted from Global Solidarity in Action: A Guide for International Issue Advocacy in the United States) The following guidelines will assist you in helping others to act on global issues related to poverty.
Develop an Action Plan for Advocacy on U.S. Foreign Policy
Careful planning and reaching out to new groups can put your work on global policy on a firm foundation.
- Learn more about issues related to global poverty. The Issues section on the Catholics Confront Global Poverty website (usccb.org/globalpoverty) will provide the most recent details about these issues.
- Expand your capacity. Think about the impact of numbers, involve your parish, local college or university, and extend the efforts to your diocese.
- Establish a legislative network. If your parish or diocese does not already have a network, work to organize one. You will need someone to manage the network and decide how you will disseminate the information. You can use the Catholics Confront Global Poverty website as the source of your advocacy materials. Contact your diocesan office for social ministry or your state Catholic conference for assistance.
- Reach out to coalitions and groups to strengthen your network. Engage your pastor, bishop, colleagues, interfaith groups and community groups.
- Promote your network. At every parish event, mention the network so that parishioners will understand how they can become a member and respond. Always have a sign-up sheet and request all necessary information, phone number, email address, etc.
- Always share results with the network. Remind members to thank elected officials. Invite bishops or pastors to thank network members for their work.
Get to Know Your Elected Officials
Learn as much as you can about your Senators, your Representative, the President and key members of the Administration.
- Learn the arguments that may persuade your elected official. Just by reading the newspaper, listening to news radio, or following the news on television, you can discover the priority issues for your local officials. Notice the issues that your elected officials often discuss or introduce legislation to address.
- Learn how elected officials vote on issues concerning issues related to global poverty such as foreign assistance, peace, debt relief, trade, natural resources, climate change, and migration. You may consult usccb.org/globalpoverty to see the most recent developments or visit thomas.loc.gov to research a specific piece of legislation.
- Think about elected officials’ allies. Is there a local business, group or organization that has a close relationship with your elected official? Is it possible that their opinion would influence the elected official?
- Sign up to receive newsletters from your elected official. You can do so online, by visiting the Senate, senate.gov and the House house.gov websites.
Communicate with your Elected Officials
It is important that your advocacy efforts include constant interaction with your elected officials. Generally you should contact your elected officials at their Washington, D.C. offices.
- Writing an actual letter is a very effective way to communicate with elected officials. Just remember that, with increased security, letters sent through U.S. mail are generally delayed significantly and you may miss an opportunity to share your opinion before an important vote.
- Email has become very effective as a means to communicate with elected officials. Some networks use faxes too. Make sure to include a cover sheet and a request for immediate delivery to the addressee.
- Phone calls to your elected officials may also be valuable. Often you might have the opportunity to share your concerns with a legislative assistant who is responsible for advising the elected official on your issues of concern.
Personal interaction allows you an opportunity share your concerns and ask for specific commitments for your elected officials.
- It is also possible to arrange a meeting with your elected official when they are home for recess from congressional sessions. If you have a large network, you may want to select some key members of the network to meet with your elected official.
- Be prepared to discuss the issue. Have a set of convincing arguments and consider the questions that the elected official may have for you. You may want to share specific stories about the impact of a piece of legislation. For example, if debt forgiveness for a country will promote the construction of more schools, you should share that particular story.
- Set expectations for the meeting.
- Assign roles. Make sure the members of the group know their talking points.
- Honor general etiquette. Be on time, courteous and positive. Just consider how you would want to be approached.
- Clearly state who you and your team is representing. Both the elected official to know what interests you are representing.
- Take notes. This will help with your evaluation and follow-up.
- Ask for a commitment. The commitment may be to continue discussion or a particular vote—but make sure it is clear.
- Debrief with your team after the meeting and identify next steps.
- In each subsequent communication, mention the meeting to refresh their memories about your commitment to addressing poverty.
Additional Programs and Training
As you build your capacity for advocacy, a coalition of parishes in your diocese may want to consider a variety of trainings offered by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) related to advocacy and legislative network development. Contact Tina Rodousakis at CRS at firstname.lastname@example.org or Joan Rosenhauer at USCCB at email@example.com.
If your parish has not participated in one of the following, you may want to consider participating in one of the following programs into your parish to build awareness about justice:
- JustFaith: If you are from the East Region, contact Chris Breu (firstname.lastname@example.org); for the West Region, contact Sharon Bidwell (email@example.com). For general information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or consult the JustFaith Ministries website: justfaith.org.
- Salt and Light: Contact your diocesan Social Ministry office or the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for more information (Joan Rosenhauer at email@example.com).
Global Solidarity in Action: A Guide for International Issue Advocacy in the United States. Baltimore, MD: Catholic Relief Services, 2005