When I turned 18, I still couldn’t vote. You had to be 21 at the time to cast a ballot.
When I finally got the chance to exercise my civic duty, I did so with gusto. And I haven’t missed an opportunity since then to make my choice known in an election.
That’s why I’m stunned to hear a statistic that the Catholic Citizens Committee is tossing around – more than half of the registered Catholics in the diocese are not voting. That’s a startling number.
Here’s another crazy figure. A recent poll by Suffolk University found roughly 40 percent of America’s eligible voters said they’ll probably sit out the November election.
To combat this apparent apathy, the Catholic Citizens Committee has undertaken a voter registration drive to make sure that Catholics are eligible to vote and to encourage them to do so.
Of course, the Church – and any church-related group – cannot endorse specific candidates because of antiquated IRS rules in the country, but it sure can endorse the idea of voting as a responsibility, and it can address issues of moral concern to the community. Catholics have an obligation to vote as a way to enter into the public debate that is the way of democracy.
Members of the Catholic Citizens Committee have been visiting Catholic churches in Brooklyn and Queens on the weekends and signing up voters to make sure that Catholics are properly represented in the voting booth. Having visited 50 parishes already, the committee has enrolled more than 4,000 new voters to the rolls. The goal is to have been at 100 parishes by the end of August.
Two weeks ago, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica parish in Sunset Park, Diana Fernandez from the Catholic Citizens Committee spoke at the end of all Masses and told the parishioners, “We don’t want Catholics to be mute. We want Catholics to have a voice.”
The September primaries soon will be upon us. In less than three months, we will choose a president. Hopefully, Catholics will take their rightful place in line to make those choices.
In the coming weeks, representatives of the Catholic Citizens Committee will be present at churches in Brooklyn and Queens. If you are not eligible to vote in the upcoming elections, stop by the Committee’s tables outside church and take a registration card. The Catholic voice must be heard.
The group will be setting up shop this week at all Sunday Masses at the following parishes: St. Elizabeth’s, Ozone Park; St. Teresa of Avila, South Ozone Park; SS. Simon and Jude, Gravesend; Holy Spirit, Borough Park; St. Matthias, Ridgewood; Incarnation, Queens Village; St. Adalbert, Elmhurst; and St. Mary Mother of Jesus, Bensonhurst.
On Monday, Sept. 3, the Committee will set up at St. Matthew’s Church, Crown Heights, at 9 a.m. when Mass will be celebrated as part of the West Indian Day Parade.
And on Sunday, Sept. 9, you will find information booths at Sunday Masses at: St. Mel’s, Flushing; St. Ann’s, Flushing; and Mary’s Nativity, Flushing.
On Sunday Sept. 16, the schedule calls for a visit to Mary, Queen of Heaven, Old Mill Basin.
Members of the Catholic Citizens Committee will continue visiting parishes through September. Pastors interested in getting on its schedule should contact Vincent Le Vien, director of external affairs for the DeSales Media Group, at 718-499-9705 or email@example.com.