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placeholder April 17, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 8    •   Oakland, CA
Children are the theme of Catholic Advocacy Day

Catholic Advocacy Day — April 25 in Sacramento — will have a theme, advocating for legislation that improves the lives of children.

"We haven't done a theme before," said Ned Dolejsi, executive director of the California Catholic Conference. "It's a way to connect those issues in people's minds. How our children should fare is important to everyone," he said, on issues including education, health care and justice.

Catholic Advocacy Day

When: April 25

For details on legislation: www.cacatholic.org

To join: Diocese of Oakland, Office of Life and Justice

For more informaition:
510-267-8379 or chernandez@oakdiocese.org
Through the theme, Dolejsi said, the participants from the 12 dioceses of California can attempt to find common ground with their legislators and "show the diversity of issues the Catholic groups are interested in."

The Sacramento-based California Catholic Conference has identified about six bills that the participants can speak about in brief meetings with their legislators. The bills include AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act of 2017. The bill aims to cut childhood poverty in California by 50 percent over the next 20 years and provides a comprehensive framework of research-backed solutions to achieve it, the council said.

Other bills address education issues for undocumented students; homeless youths; and teachers.

The conference is also focusing on a bill that would require student health insurance plans offered by campuses of the California State University and the California Community Colleges to include coverage of abortion as part of the student health insurance plan.

Participants will receive "talking points" before meeting with their legislators in meetings that have been arranged for them. Often, participants will find themselves meeting with a legislative aide.

A key to getting to meet the decision-maker, Dolejsi said, is "flexibility."

Offer to meet outside a committee room, he suggested, or before or after the lunch break, to have the best chance of speaking directly with a legislator.

"If that's not possible," he suggested, "push for a meeting with the chief of staff or legislative director."

Whoever you meet with, he said, "they're charged with making a report back to the member."

Sometimes, the participants will find that the legislator's mind is already made up.

"We still have a prophetic call to speak for the truth," Dolejsi said.

Some participants from the Diocese of Oakland point out ways their voices have been heard.

"Catholic Advocacy Day is only one day," said Gwen Watson of Christ the King Parish in Pleasant Hill. Watson has 25 years' experience in the event.

"But when the bills are being heard and voted on, a group of us attend town halls and get on the mic with our requests, we make calls and visit our legislators, etc.," she said.

"I was part of an interfaith group that lobbied hard for SB 54 during the last month with our senator, Steve Glazer. He didn't mention us by name, but at last night's town hall he mentioned that he had decided to vote yes on SB 54.

"When we visited him he was on the fence, and we felt he needed to be convinced, so we continued to encourage him to vote our way. And were we happy to hear the good news that the Senate passed it and our senator voted for it!"

Meg Bowerman, a parishioner at St. Columba in Oakland and diocesan coordinator for JustFaith, said participation is paramount.

"Everyone, and I mean everyone, should attend this day, even if you don't know much about the bill or feel you have little to say," she said. "There are several roles: you can be part of a group representing your parish and not say a word; you can be a leader of the small group; you can pose questions to the staff of the legislators; you can pray for others afflicted by poverty and other road blocks to life and justice; you can record for your group; you can meet people who want a law passed and hear their stories as well as share yours."

Afterward, she said, participants can, "bring that news to your parish!"

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