As citizens in the most powerful democracy on earth, we have unique opportunities to use our voices and votes to shape a more caring community, a more just nation, and a more peaceful world. We can join with others in our parishes, local community organizations, and legislative networks. We can also join with parishes and dioceses in other parts of the world and in ecumenical and other forms of action and advocacy our faith calls us to engagement, not retreatto renew the earth, not flee the world.
A Place at the TableAs individuals, Catholics are called to ongoing participation in public life, to vote and to help shape public policies that reflect their values. Parishes and other church organizations also participate in public life by applying Catholic social teaching to key issues facing our communities, our nation, and our world, and by speaking out on the moral and ethical dimensions of these issues. Church statements on public policy issues can help individuals form their own consciences and make decisions about the positions they will take.
Suggestions for Parishes
- Many parishes have formed legislative networks or parish advocacy groups that focus specifically on creating opportunities for parishioners to participate in working for policies that promote justice and peace. It is most effective when these groups are affliliated with a state or diocesan legislative network. Often these groups are sub-committees of the general parish social concerns committee. If you do not already have a group in the parish that focuses on advocacy, consider forming one. Invite parishioners to join through personal invitations and bulletin announcements. Identify one or two people who will coordinate the group. Remember that the goal of this group is not simply to advocate, but to provide the leadership that allows many parishioners to participate in advocacy activities.
- Go to or contact:
- the web sites listed in this section
- your state Catholic conference or
- your diocesan social action or pro-life office
Find out what kinds of poverty-related public policies they address and determine if they have a legislative network. Learn how your parish can become involved. Often parish legislative network or advocacy groups can be a chapter or an affiliate of a diocesan or state Catholic legislative network.
- the web sites listed in this section
- Make it easy for parishioners to learn about and act on public policies. The best way to do this is to identify local and national groups through which you can get accurate information on public policy issues. Your diocesan pro-life or social action office, your state Catholic conference, and the national Catholic organizations listed on this site often provide background information and "action alerts" on public policy issues affecting those who are poor and vulnerable. These resources will provide information about the issue, about Catholic social teaching on this topic, and about how and when contacts to legislators are needed. By obtaining information from Catholic organizations, you ensure that the positions your group promotes are consistent with Catholic teaching.
- Build your parish network by developing a recruiting strategy. This might include a "Sign-Up Sunday" after masses on a given Sunday. Or it might involve putting sign-up forms in the bulletin. You might also want to go to meetings of various organizations (e.g., Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent de Paul, Ladies of Charity, etc.) and invite them to participate. Be creative.
- Make sure that you have structured the group and its leadership so that you can pass along action alerts and other information in a timely fashion. One or two people should sign up to receive information from your diocesan legislative network, your state Catholic conference, or from one or more of the national Catholic groups identified on this site. These leaders should then create a system that allows them to get information out to members. This can be done through a telephone tree or through an e-mail list, depending on the access to technology among your members. As an ongoing recruitment strategy and to educate the parish, information on issues and on Catholic social teaching can regularly be included in the bulletin.
- Conduct special activities to highlight the advocacy activities members of the parish are undertaking. One example would be actively marking pro-life Sunday in October. Another would be conducting an "Offering of Letters" using materials from Bread for the World (www.bread.org).
- Be sure to celebrate your successes. Send your members information on the final outcome of the issues your group has addressed. This will allow them to celebrate their participation in successful efforts. They'll also know which issues will need more work in the future.