By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published February 16, 2012
Georgia Catholics made their presence known to the state’s legislative bodies during the 2012 Catholic Day at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb 7.
The event provided Catholics from the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah the opportunity to observe sessions in the Georgia House of Representatives and Senate, to speak with their legislators about issues important to the Church, and to connect with other politically active Catholics.
The morning began with a legislative briefing at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, led by Pat Chivers, archdiocesan communications director. She noted the importance of Catholics becoming more involved in the political process.
“Catholics are still in the minority in the state of Georgia,” Chivers told the crowd of about 50 people gathered in a meeting room below the church. “So the legislators need to know that Catholics are faithful citizens. … We vote, we have a voice, and we want to influence the legislation.”
At the briefing, participants received a packet of information helping them find the Capitol offices of their local senators and representatives. People from Corpus Christi Church, Stone Mountain, St. Brigid Church, Johns Creek, St. Jude the Apostle Church, Atlanta, and St Lawrence Church, Lawrenceville, among others, came to the session.
Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Auxiliary Bishop Luis R. Zarama participated and encouraged those who came to speak out on issues and support legislation that upholds Catholic teaching.
“We, as citizens, are responsible for making sure that we are informed and we know the processes of our freedom,” the archbishop said. “I hope you get a chance to meet some of your elected officials from your own districts. … You put a bright and loving face on the Church.”
The group, which grew to about 100, attended the morning sessions in the Capitol, where Archbishop Gregory served as chaplain for the day. He addressed members of the Senate, thanked them for their service and encouraged them to remember that their actions on the various pieces of legislation that come through their chamber affect everyone.
“I very much appreciate the opportunity to meditate with you for a few moments on the spiritual aspects of the vitally important work you do in this chamber. But I first must commend you for your practice of beginning each day of your session with moments of prayer and reflection,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“As you make the difficult decisions that face you this day, I pray that God will inspire you with the wisdom to enact those just laws, which benefit and heal all people, while protecting the human freedoms that come from our Creator, so that everyone affected by your actions may find the happiness to which all are entitled,” he said.
Following the opening sessions, participants were encouraged to visit their representative’s office, to meet and chat with them about the importance of specific issues, including the dignity of life, immigration reform and education.
“It is important for us to be involved,” said Donna White, a Corpus Christi parishioner, who has come to Catholic Day at the Capitol in previous years. “There are so many things going on, especially in an election season. This year politics is in the forefront. … Today we have an opportunity to speak to the issues.”
There were also several people attending for the first time. Some just wanted to learn how the process works, and others were encouraged to participate after attending a Faith and Public Policy Workshop, held at the Catholic Church of St. Ann, Marietta, last month.
“This is my first Catholic Day,” said Betty Ann Amoroso, a St. Brigid parishioner. “I have been involved with the archdiocese for 30 years but have never been here. … I am here to get educated.”
Patty Decraene, a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish, was also attending for the first time, as she felt called to participate in the legislative process.
“I’m here to help in any way I can,” she said. “I wanted to become more aware of how we get involved.”
The day was officially proclaimed by the Georgia Senate as “Catholic Day at the Capitol.”
“(The legislators) need to know that the Church has a bright and loving face and has a deep responsibility to be involved in the works of government and in the protection of our freedoms,” said Archbishop Gregory.