Bernie Cullen takes his responsibilities as a citizen seriously. The parishioner of St. Mary in Alexandria joined approximately 2.6 million other Minnesotans last November in casting a ballot on Election Day for a slate of local, state and national candidates.
But for Cullen, a retired U.S. Army colonel, pulling shut the voting booth curtain at the Melby Town Hall and marking his choices are just one aspect of being a “faithful citizen” — answering our baptismal call to build a better society by helping to shape public policies in light of Gospel values. This need is so important that the Church identifies it as a “moral obligation” for all Catholics.
In addition to voting, Catholics also are encouraged to exercise political responsibility in other ways — by running for office, working within political parties and communicating their concerns to elected officials.
“Pope Benedict XVI said it very well: The voices of committed believers must be heard when determining the values that will help shape the future of the nation,” Cullen said. “Well, how’s that done? That’s done through the legislative process. So we either get involved, or we stand by and pick up the pieces or suffer the outcome of not being involved.”
With the start of the 2019 state legislative session on Jan. 8, Catholics have an opportunity to continue the work of faithful citizenship by assisting elected officials in creating public policies that promote human life and dignity. One avenue for participation is the Catholic Advocacy Network — an initiative of Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC), the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in the state.
The nonpartisan network — for which you can sign up at www.mncatholic.org — keeps Catholics updated via email on important legislative activity as well as other activities related to the Church’s social ministry and policy advocacy. It also offers tools for taking action on specific issues.
Cullen is one of about 40,000 Minnesota Catholics who belong to the network.
“That’s a sizable number and, as we know, politicians respect numbers,” he said. “In a sense, they need us more than we need them — we’re the voters, and that’s why they remain open to these kinds of efforts. We can make a difference on issues. They want to hear from us.”
Cullen is a self-professed “political junkie” with a long history of attending precinct caucuses, talking with candidates and supporting those who reflect his values. Two years ago, when the Diocese of St. Cloud organized a Life and Dignity Sunday event with the support of Bishop Donald Kettler and the MCC, Cullen’s pastor, Father Steve Binsfeld, asked him to offer a “ministry moment” to explain to parishioners how they could participate in the political process. This past August, he helped to organize an evening event with MCC at St. Mary’s to further encourage parishioners’ involvement. He also serves as an MCC “district leader” for Minnesota District 12, organizing faithful citizenship efforts in his area.
Cullen said he is looking forward to MCC’s “Catholics at the Capitol” event on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at the RiverCentre and State Capitol in St. Paul. The gathering — similar to one held in 2017 — seeks to bring together a few thousand Catholics from around the state so they can make their voices heard on issues important to them. MCC also hopes the event will “demystify the process of legislative advocacy” for those who have little — or even no — experience in politics. The day will feature prayer, speakers, issue briefings and opportunities to meet with local legislators.
Let Your Voice Be Heard
CATHOLICS AT THE CAPITOL
Join fellow Catholics for a day of prayer, education and advocacy from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19, at the RiverCentre and State Capitol in St. Paul. The day, organized by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, will feature issue briefings and visits with local legislators. Speakers include Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, Gloria Purvis Scott from EWTN’s “Morning Glory” radio program and Black Catholics United for Life, and Jim Caviezel, a Catholic actor whose movie credits include “The Passion of the Christ” and “Paul, Apostle of Christ.” Cost: $40. For more information or to register, visit
https://catholicsatthecapitol.org. Questions? Call: 651-227-8777 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
JRLC DAY ON THE HILL
The annual Joint Religious Legislative Coalition’s Day on the Hill policy briefing and lobby event will be Thursday, Feb. 7, at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront and State Capitol in St. Paul. The keynote speaker is Imam Yahya Hendi, the Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The theme of the day is “Stand Out Firmly for Justice.” Cost: $50. The Minnesota Catholic Conference is one of the JRLC’s sponsoring members. For more information about the Day on the Hill or to register, visit https://jrlc.org. Questions? Call: 612-870-3670 or email: email@example.com.