Continuing in their annual tradition, Catholics from throughout the State of New York, including hundreds of people from Brooklyn and Queens, travelled to Albany March 19 to speak with and pray for their state representatives.
The annual Catholics at the Capitol event, sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference, allows people to personally present their stances on a wide array of political issues. Participants meet with their state legislatures individually or in small groups.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio was among the participants at the lobby day and spoke with many politicians during his visit, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others in the leadership. He was there for a two-day stay to, among other things, rally support for the Education Investment Tax Credit proposal.
He commented on the dedication the people of the diocese who displayed a willingness to fulfill their civic duty.
“I’m really proud of them,” he said.
Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Chappetto and Paul Sanchez joined Bishop DiMarzio and other New York bishops at the lobby day.
“Today was a great educational experience for people on the ground, our parishioners, our young people, for all our people, to learn how to deal with legislatures,” Bishop Sanchez said. “Being a good Catholic means being a good citizen.”
Among those who spoke with the politicians in Albany was Shirley Juste, who works for Catholic Charities Brooklyn and Queens (CCBQ).
“I’m a social worker in a program that works with adults recovering from mental illness, and I love my job,” she said. “This is my first time at Albany, first time being involved in any type of political action process, and I was very impressed and very warmly received.”
Juste spoke with Sen. John Sampson, who represents central Brooklyn. He said he was happy to open his door to his constituency.
“You put a face to the issues that are being put forth by Catholic Charities,” he said. “And it’s even greater when you have people from your own community, who live in your community, that you can talk to on a one on one basis.”
Sheldon Peters, project organizer for CCBQ, said the impact of Catholics at the Capitol far exceeds one day in Albany. It builds the groundwork for organizations like Catholic Charities to continue fostering relationships with state representatives so that their various efforts can continue to receive funding and perhaps even reverse cuts.
TO WATCH THIS STORY ON CURRENTS VISIT: http://netny.net/currents/video/catholics-legislators-get-education-during-capital-visit-32014/
The cut in funding the organization faced in recent years has translated to cuts in staff, lack of salary increase and a cut in the frequency of some of its services.
Father Darrell Da Costa, pastor at St. Paul the Apostle parish, Corona, said coming back on a yearly basis brings a Catholic presence to the state’s capital that may bring about positive change “with the help of the Holy Spirit, of course, that moves hearts.”
“You make an impression after a while,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “The legislators know we come up once a year, that we want to express our needs and do our civil duty. So it’s good. It’s very necessary that we do this.”
To end the day, the Catholics from New York followed a procession led by the Knights of Columbus to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. They did so after praying together at a Knights of Columbus sponsored Rosary Rally.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan was the main celebrant and homilist at the Mass. He thanked the congregation, which filled the cathedral to standing room only capacity, for their dedication and resilience.
The Eucharistic celebration also offered Catholics the opportunity to ask for help from the Holy Spirit, said Bishop Chappetto.
“We are asking almighty God to bless our state, to bless our country, to bless these men and women who have been elected to represent us,” he said. “We’re asking for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be with them so that they can make good choices, good decisions that will affect many, many people.”
To learn how to participate in Catholics at the Capitol or to attend a training day, visit ccbq.org.