By Diane Towalski
The Central Minnesota Catholic
“Be bold, be brave, be Catholic.”
That’s how Gloria Purvis of the Eternal Word Television Network summed up the keynote address by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia at Catholics at the Capitol Feb. 19 in St. Paul.
|Catholics from across the state gather in the State Capitol building for the close of this
year’s Catholics at the Capitol Feb. 19. (Photo courtesy of the Central Minnesota Catholic)
The event at the St. Paul RiverCentre and State Capitol drew more than 1,000 Catholics from around the state for a day of prayer, education and advocacy on issues important to the church. It was sponsored by the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the church in Minnesota.
“Catholics at the Capitol is about providing people in the pew with an opportunity to meet their legislators and overcome some of the fear and misconceptions people have about politics,” said Jason Adkins, MCC executive director.
One of those misconceptions is that faith and politics don’t mix. But, Purvis sought to dispel any thought of that in her opening remarks. Pope Francis, she noted, has said that a good Catholic “meddles in politics,” adding that “we’re going to meddle today.”
Bringing faith to the public square is essential, Archbishop Chaput said in his keynote address. The archbishop is the author of two books on the topic: “Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in Post-Christian World” (2017) and “Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life” (2008).
“In the American tradition, people have a right to bring their beliefs to bear on every social, economic, and political problem facing their community,” he said. “For Catholics, inserting our faith into public life isn’t just a privilege. It’s not just a right. It’s a demand of the Gospel.”
The archbishop urged Catholics not to be silent.
“It’s vital to the health of every democracy. … It’s also a duty — not only of our religious faith, but also of our citizenship,” he said. “We have to be loud and involved.”
“The lesson for us today is simply this: If we don’t at least try to shape our times with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to do it with all our hearts and energy, then evil will shape the times, and ultimately shape us and our families — those we love,” Archbishop Chaput said.
“That’s why today matters,” he said. “It matters because all of us are here today to live, to work, to do, as we struggle together for the dignity of the human person — all human persons, from the unborn child, to the poor, the weak, the immigrant, and the suffering.”
Bishop John Quinn of Winona- Rochester and Bishop Paul Sirba of Duluth introduced two of MCC’s legislative priorities on which participants were asked to focus during visits with legislators in the afternoon.
“Surrogacy Abuse Prevention Act” would prohibit for-profit commercial surrogate arrangements and create a regulatory framework for surrogacy arrangements in Minnesota.
The “First 1,000 Days” is a group of four bills that support children in the womb, expectant mothers and fathers, and families of young children during the first 1,000 days of life. Programs funded by these bills would include grants for prenatal care and education, a study on breastfeeding disparities, home-visit programs for families with young children, and help with transportation costs for young mothers to attend school.
During a short panel discussion, Rep. Ryan Winkler and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka stressed the value of meeting with lawmakers in person.
The Catholic bishops of Minnesota joined attendees at events throughout the day, including legislative visits.
Earlier in the day, St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler introduced “Minnesota: Our Common Home,” an educational booklet produced by MCC. The document aims to help Minnesotans understand Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’: on Care for Our Common Home” on a more local level.
“Please use it, particularly for your own reflection in prayer on how God has blessed us, our world and all of us so much,” Bishop Kettler said. (To download a copy the document, visit www.mncatholic.org/ourcommonhome.)
Bishop Kettler also visited with legislators and emphasized the importance of writing or calling them. “Getting to know some of our legislators has been really beneficial to me,” he said.
Attendees also heard actor Jim Caviezel (CBS’s “Person of Interest” and “The Passion of the Christ” movie), who offered an inspirational message about following Jesus today.
“You are here today because you heard a call to help those who are most defenseless, the elderly, the unborn, the unwanted, those with no hope,” Caviezel said. “Each one of us is called to be that hope, you are that hope.”
He challenged participants to ask why they were there, and he encouraged them to be open to God’s call.
“You are here today because you believe that the crux of our faith is based on the truth that there is no resurrection without the crucifixion,” he said. “It took my own experience playing Jesus in ‘The Passion’ [of the Christ] to understand this. Up until that time, I saw Jesus on the cross. After that experience … I have looked down at people from that cross. Jesus allowed me to see out from his perspective, and I see so clearly how the world looks at those that are vulnerable and helpless. As Christians of conviction, we are never helpless because we carry the hope of Christ.”
Note: Bring your faith into the public arena by joining the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network. You will be given the tools to stay informed and easily contact your elected officials about issues impacting life and human dignity. Visit www.MNCatholic.org/ActionCenter to join.