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March 1, 2009

Catholics to rally, meet legislators in Springfield

By Michelle Martin

Assistant Editor

Springfield will take on a Catholic flavor March 4, as nearly 3,000 Catholics — including 2,500 Catholic school students — from across the state are expected to rally for Catholic schools and then meet with their representatives to discuss policy issues that touch on Catholic teaching.

“Coming to the state capitol to lend your voice in shaping the moral character of society is a great expression of living the Catholic faith,” wrote leaders from the Catholic Conference of Illinois in a welcome packet for participants. “It is also a basic part of the mission we have received from Jesus Christ, who offers a vision of life revealed to us in Sacred Scriptures and tradition. In our system of government where we elect leaders to make decisions that we hope will best promote the common good, it is imperative that we take the time to be engaged in the political process.

Daylong schedule

Participants in Catholics at the Capitol will be greeted at 10 a.m. by Cardinal George and the bishops of the other five dioceses in Illinois and receive a short briefing from Catholic Conference of Illinois staff in the Hall of Flags in the Howlett Building, 501 S. 2nd St., Springfield. Then they will move on to Capitol Rotunda at 11 a.m. for a rally for Catholic schools. After the rally, participants are asked to meet with their state legislators and senators to discuss the seven issues the conference is working on with the legislature this year. Lunch will be offered in the Howlett Building at 1:30 p.m., with a debriefing session before the day ends.

Those who are going should contact their state representatives or senator before they go to make an appointment. If you don’t know who your legislators are, visit and click on “legislator lookup.”

Seven issues

The issues the conference is seeking to educate legislators on this year are:

■ increasing the Education Expense Tax Credit maximum from $500 to $1,000 a year. The credit is used by families who send their children to Catholic schools, among others.

■ budget relief to make sure federal and state reimbursements are made to Catholic health care institutions and nursing homes on a timely basis.

■ opposition to legislation that equates same-sex unions to marriage.

■ legislation mandating that a woman seeking an abortion be offered the opportunity to view a sonogram before the procedure.

■ providing a cost-of-doingbusiness increase and budgetary action to provide prompt payments for Catholic Charities and other social-service providers under contract to the state.

■ funding for community organizations and parishes to provide English classes to immigrants.

■ legislation to finally abolish the death penalty.

Those who travel to Springfield need not address all seven issues with their legislators, said Robert Gilligan, executive director of the conference. They should choose one or two items that they can talk about.

Information is available to help them explain how these issues relate to Catholic social teaching, starting with the dignity of each person.

The conference is organizing a bus trip that will leave St. Frances of Rome Parish in Cicero at 6 a.m. and return about 6 p.m. with a cost of $10 per person. To reserve a seat, call the conference at (312) 366-1066.

Other Catholic schools, parishes and organizations are sponsoring their own trips to the capitol.

For more information, visit or call (312) 368-1066.