Delegates Gwen Watson, Deacon Dave Cloyne, Randy Starkweather and Pete Garcia go over their notes for Catholic Advocacy Day.
Catholic Advocacy Day puts spotlight
on issues in Sacramento
At left, Deborah Nunes and Buzz Sherwood stand outside Assemblyman Bill Quirk's office on Catholic Advocacy Day. Nunes is the RCIA coordinator at St. Anne Parish in Union City; Sherwood is the detention ministry site coordinator at the Juvenile Hall in San Leandro.
Twenty Catholic delegates from the Diocese of Oakland joined with 130 Catholic delegates from across the state on April 29, Catholic Advocacy Day, to advocate on a variety of bills promoting life and dignity in California.
"As delegates from the Diocese of Oakland, we did not come to the State Capitol to speak for ourselves, but for those who suffer in our community; parents seeking a quality education for their children, immigrants seeking to be part of society, families trying to survive," said John Watkins, coordinator for life and justice for the diocese.
Rita Mitchell, a board member of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, was among the delegates. "My professional and volunteer activities involve working with the poor and disenfranchised," she said. "To move beyond serving the poor to helping them overcome poverty often involves changing policies. Advocacy Day is part of that process and I am committed to doing what I can to help."
Buzz Sherwood, the detention ministry site coordinator at the Juvenile Hall in San Leandro, said, "It seemed important to me to participate in a very small way in correcting the many injustices that exist in our so-called 'justice' system."
Delegates spoke to lawmakers on a number of pieces of legislation, including:
•AB 899 and AB 1579, which combine the Catholic principles of reverence for life and economic justice. The measures would revoke the CalWORKs Maximum Family Grant provision, thereby eliminating any pressure for a pregnant woman receiving assistance to abort her child rather than sinking further into poverty.
•AB 1786 and AB 2427 would allow, respectively, low- and middle-income parents to receive a tax deduction for K-12 educational expenses and new K-12 teachers to receive individual tax credits for expenses on instructional materials and classroom supplies.
•AB 1876 would stop exorbitant phone charges for families calling loved ones in jail and SB 833 would allow people to arrange safe transportation by adjusting jail release time.
•AB 2336 would prevent abortion based on gender selection.
•Restoring funding for the Naturalization Services Program would allow community-based organizations such as Catholic Charities to assist resident aliens in the complex and sometimes frustrating process of finalizing citizenship.
The experience reminded Mitchell "of how good it feels to be part of the process," she said.
"I have been to many Advocacy Days in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., in my professional life, but this was special because it involved discussing issues that are important to me as a Catholic and speaking to legislators as a Catholic," she said.
Additional information on the day's events and legislation is available at the California Catholic Conference, www.cacatholic.org.
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