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Catholic Advocacy Network seeks to foster life and dignity throughout state

By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND

The weekend of Oct. 28 and 29 is set aside as Life and Dignity Sunday throughout Minnesota Catholic dioceses. Parishioners will have the opportunity to join 40,000 of their fellow Minnesotans by signing up for the Catholic Advocacy Network at parishes during the weekend.

“The goal of Life and Dignity Sunday is not to get people to just sign up on a piece of paper and to get another number in the network. The goal is to inspire and activate every Catholic to respond to the call of Christ and stand up for life and human dignity in the public arena,” said Rachel Herbeck, the Outreach and Policy Coordinator for the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

AJ Garcia, Director of the diocesan Office of New Evangelization and Justice, has been helping coordinate volunteers to facilitate the sign-up on the weekend of Life and Dignity Sunday.

“I hope it will create increased awareness of our need as Catholics to be living out our faith in the public arena,” he said. “There are many more life issues that we as Christians could be active with in addition to abortion. Life and Dignity Sunday will be helpful by informing people of urgent and important opportunities for us to take action.”

Herbeck led training sessions for parish ambassadors from the diocese in early September. More than 40 people are coordinating the Life and Dignity Sunday sign up effort in parishes across the diocese.

Bill Miller is the Parish Ambassador for Sacred Heart, Roseau. He was excited to learn about the Life and Dignity Sunday campaign and applied for the role.

“In the process I have had a chance to work with and grow closer to other members of the diocese, parish priests and representatives from the Office of the New Evangelization and the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network,” he said. “I hope every parishioner in the Diocese of Crookston will take advantage of this opportunity to register to be a member of the Catholic Advocacy Network on Life and Dignity Sunday.”

John Lindow of Our Lady of the Pines, Nevis, is also a Parish Ambassador. He served as an ambassador three years ago during the first Life and Dignity Sunday sign-up drive.

He is concerned by the increased secularization of society and efforts to oppose religious liberty. He is also concerned about legislation regarding the end of life.

“Assisted suicide bills have been proposed in 34 states this year in a fashion similar to the way the same sex marriage legislation swept through the country,” Lindow said.

“Involvement with the Catholic Advocacy Network over the past year plus other events have made the need for more and more input by all Catholics in our political decision making process. It is about numbers and voices,” he said.

He is hopeful about the efforts of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

“We will be able to let the people know that by simply filling out the card on sign-up Sunday, they will be linking themselves to a great reference source,” Lindow said.

He said the resources provided online by the Catholic Advocacy Network are focused on current issues in the state.

“Like Scripture and the Catechism, the website will help us form our consciences as Catholic citizens. Hopefully this will lead us to an active role in helping to shape the society in which we live and raise our families,” Lindow said.

“Through the Catholic Advocacy Network, Catholics in Minnesota are provided with opportunities to get connected, stay informed and take action on legislative issues here in Minnesota. The goal of the network is to fill Minnesota with Catholics who are informed, passionate and active in creating a better Minnesota,” Herbeck said.

The Minnesota Catholic Conference hopes that building the network will strengthen the voice of life and dignity in the state.

“As the network grows, we move closer and closer to a Minnesota where life is valued at all stages and in all forms,” she said.

Members of the Catholic Advocacy Network receive communications via email an average of once per week. Herbeck said two types of messages are sent: e-updates and action alerts.

“E-updates are more educational in nature and provide resources on issues and Catholic Social Teaching. Action alerts are messages that provide concrete opportunities to take action on certain advocacy areas such as calling or emailing your legislator about a particular issue,” she said.

Miller registered to be a member of the Minnesota Catholic Advocacy Network before taking part in the Catholics at the Capitol event held in March.

As a member of the Catholic Advocacy Network, he appreciates being informed about current legislative issues.

“I feel educated and confident to share and promote life and dignity in all aspects of my life,” he said.

Garcia encourages people to sign up, “to be regularly informed and updated about issues that will affect decisions made in our state capitol and national capitol, and how we as citizens can impact and influence the men and women we have elected to office.”

He said the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s website provides easy ways to take action in a number of advocacy areas and also includes ways to learn who your elected officials are and how to contact them.

Garcia added that when signing up for the Catholic Advocacy Network, parishioners can customize the alerts they receive.

Some of the advocacy areas the Minnesota Catholic Conference focuses on are: care for creation, education, healthcare, labor and economy, life and bioethics, marriage and family, migration, the poor and vulnerable, and religious freedom.

“Catholics in Minnesota have a duty to make our voices heard in the public arena,” Herbeck said. “We have a responsibility to do our part in building a society where human life is valued, the poor are cared for, the outcast is welcomed and earth and its resources are cared for. Each day, different voices are shaping our society and public life here in Minnesota. Signing up for the Catholic Advocacy Network is a very easy way that you can step into your duty and answer your call to shape our world.”

For more information about the Minnesota Catholic Conference and the Catholic Advocacy Network, visit www.mncatholic.org.