SETTING UP A “CATHOLICS AT THE CAPITOL” EVENT
“In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, participation in the political process is a moral obligation.” – Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, USCCB Administrative Board 2003
One of the most effective ways to reach legislators to bring attention to issues of importance to Catholics is set up an annual event at the Capitol of the state when legislators are in town. Your diocese or state Catholic Conference may already have a planned event. If not, the DCCW President or Province Director, depending on the size of the state, could initiate contact with the state Catholic Conference or bishop’s office.
Depending on travel time to the Capitol for participants, this can be a one day event or two days if needed for travel. Your potential participants are from the Council of Catholic Women, Knights of Columbus, diocesan staff, church faithful and students (high school and middle school).
- An overall coordinator is needed for planning the location, lunch, registration forms and packets of information for participants. A state Catholic Conference employee is ideal as they will know what issues to promote with legislators.
- If the state has more than one diocese, a coordinator for each diocese is needed to take registrations, book hotel rooms and plan bus transportation (if desired).
- Set a date early enough in session when legislators would likely schedule appointments to meet with constituents. If the bishop(s) can attend, coordinate with their schedule first. Ask participants to wear a certain color for visits.
- Plan a location for participants to meet for training and get packets/name tags.
This is generally late afternoon prior to next day events if travel is required.
Packets should include:
- copies of the information prepared for each bill to be discussed
- a layout of the building(s) where participants will be going and pertinent information like location of restrooms
- list of legislators and their office address and phone number by diocese
- any other beneficial information to assist participants
“As far as possible, citizens should take an active part in public life.”
- Catechism of the Catholic Church 1915
- A general training session for participants is held reviewing talking points for each bill to be presented. It would be best to limit to no more than four issues. A suggestion is to vary the issues to be discussed choosing one bill from each general topic: life, social concerns, health and education as an example.
- A brief training should be offered on how to present to a legislator, either by acting out a meeting or video training ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvkkqB1ofOk)
- After the group presentation, break into small groups by diocese to discuss who will present which issue and who will be the recorder of the legislator’s position on bills presented and other comments at the meeting.
- Each group should decide who will write a thank you note to legislators they will visit immediately upon return home.
- The diocesan coordinator or her designated representative should call for appointments with legislators at least one week in advance of the visit. Constituents should visit their personal representative if possible. Be prepared to present the information in 15 minutes as their offices have a busy schedule.
- If the bishop(s) plans to attend, you could schedule a lunch event, possibly with bishop(s)’ picture with participants from their diocese set up prior to the luncheon. Legislators can be invited to attend (prior registration) and should be seated with the bishop from the diocese they live in. This could also be an opportunity to present an award to a legislator(s) who has had an outstanding voting record on issues of importance to the Church or sponsored a high profile piece of legislation. The awardees should be approved in advance by the bishop(s).
- If the bishop(s) will be present, another possibility is the celebration of the Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit (Red Mass). This would be late in the afternoon when legislative meetings are finished.
- An invitation would be sent in advance to the Governor and executive staff, legislative delegations and judiciary to attend.
- The homilist is usually the bishop, or one of the bishops if there are more than one, or another person invited by the bishop.
- A choir and several musical instruments add to the moving celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
- After liturgy, a light reception could be held to allow legislators and those attending an opportunity for conversation.
- The designated recorders for legislative meetings should complete the form noting legislators’ positions on bills and return to the overall coordinator either at the end of the day or shortly after returning home.
For further information or assistance, contact Sheila Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org