#CatCap2021: Catholics at the Capitol on a mission for life and dignity

Catholics across Minnesota are once again getting a chance to visit with lawmakers about issues close to their hearts. Set for April 15-16, Catholics at the Capitol will be a combination in-person/online event and focus on legislative issues surrounding life and dignity. It is hosted by Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota.

Headlining the event this year are Archbishop Jose Gomez, archbishop of Los Angeles and current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Obianuju Ekeocha, an internationally acclaimed strategist, speaker, author, social activist and documentary filmmaker. She is the founder and president of Culture of Life Africa. They will speak at the Cathedral of St. Paul on April 15. “Virtual” visits with local legislators are planned for the next day, April 16, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Designed for Catholics who want to take a more active role in politics, Catholics at the Capitol is a biannual event first held in 2017. Due to current pandemic restrictions, planning for this year’s gathering transitioned to a hybrid event in late February (after the March issue of The Central Minnesota Catholic went to press).

JoAnn Marshall hopes to attend Catholics at the Capitol to learn more about the legislative process. She is part of an organization trying to bring “Choose Life” license plates to Minnesota. (Dianne Towalski/The Central Minnesota Catholic)

JoAnn Marshall, a member of Annunciation Parish in Mayhew Lake, first attended the event in 2019 after an invitation from Patrick Flynn, diocesan director of the Office of Marriage and Family.

“Participating in the Catholics at the Capitol event gave me a sense of the fact that there are many others in our state that feel strongly about their Catholic faith and understand that we must join together to show our solidarity in support of these beliefs in order to protect the vulnerable,” Marshall said.

At the time, she had recently become involved with an organization that is helping to bring “Choose Life” license plates to Minnesota.

“Because a special plate bill is something that needs to go through legislation, I wanted to become as knowledgeable as possible about the legislative process,” Marshall said.

She registered to attend this year’s event as well.

“I am pro-life and strongly believe in the sanctity of life from conception to natural death. I actually feel compelled to be physically present to be a voice for those who cannot speak and to show my support and to protect the dignity of those who are vulnerable during any stage of life,” she said.

Flynn said Catholics at the Capitol is a “fantastic chance to become more involved with our Catholic faith and government policy.”

“The event provides easy opportunities to meet and interact with our Minnesota lawmakers and to be inspired and motivated by speakers like this year’s keynote, Archbishop Gomez from Los Angeles,” Flynn added. “As an example, did you know that a bill has been introduced to the Minnesota House of Representatives keeping abortion legal in Minnesota despite the Supreme Court’s actions regarding Roe vs. Wade? As Catholics, it’s important our voices are part of the political conversation, and this event is a great way to do that.”

For Marshall, participating in events such as Catholics at the Capitol with other like-minded people is energizing.

“It revitalizes one’s desire to accomplish a goal as in my case and also to stand up for one’s beliefs,” she said. “I believe it is important for our representatives and senators to hear from and see their constituents in order to properly represent them.”

Although Marshall left feeling inspired to continue her pro-life efforts at home, it did stretch her a little.

“Although listening to speakers with opposing viewpoints made me feel uncomfortable, it also inspired me to be even more motivated to be an advocate for the unborn and the vulnerable in society,” Marshall said.

She hopes that many Catholics from all over the diocese — and all over the state — will attend.

“Not being informed can inadvertently cause someone to vote against their beliefs. An unintended vote can have a huge impact in a matter of life and death. That’s how important it is to be informed,” she said.

“I encourage anyone who is considering attending the Catholics at the Capitol event to sign up and attend. You will spend time in prayer, listen to some dynamic speakers, learn more about the legislative process, meet your representatives and spend the day around like-minded Catholics and be an ambassador for Christ. What can be better than that?”

ADDITIONAL EVENT INFORMATION

Janet Dusek, associate for the Office of Marriage and Family, has been designated as the coordinator for Catholics at the Capitol for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

“For those who say politics is your thing or isn’t your thing, this is for you,” Dusek said. “The MCC does an amazing job of building a day to meet people at all levels — [from] the seasoned advocate to the curious citizen who only remembers what they learned about government back in their school days. I attended this event in 2017 and 2019. The energy throughout the day was amazing.

“The day is well organized, and you’re always with a group,” she added. “When meeting with legislators, you’re free to listen and observe or speak up and advocate. It is entirely up to you. We encourage you to take a chance and try something new. If anything, you’ll walk away with a new experience to share with others.”

For more information, visit www.stcdio.org/event/catholics-at-the-capitol-2021, contact Dusek at 320-258-7616 or by email at jdusek@gw.stcdio. org. The page includes a link to registration. When registering, you’ll be able to choose whether to attend in-person or online as well as a transportation option. The diocese will again offer a bus to the event. The cost to register is $20 for in-person, $10 for online. Lunch is an additional cost or bring your own. Child/student ticket (ages 0-22) is free.

FOR UPDATES ON THE AGENDA FOR THE DAY, VISIT WWW.MNCATHOLIC.ORG.

Author: Kristi Anderson

Kristi Anderson is the associate editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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