Catholics @ the Capitol 2012

Catholics discuss legislative issues at Frankfort conference

By JESSICA ABLE

Record Staff Writer

FRANKFORT, Ky. — More than 125 Catholics from around the Commonwealth of Ken-tucky gathered at the Capital Plaza Hotel in Frankfort Feb. 6 to discuss current legislative 
issues.
The participants were there as part of “Catholics @ the 
Capitol 2012,” a two-day legi-slative advocacy conference where participants have the chance to speak with their state representatives and senators. Catholics @ the Capitol is sponsored by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK), the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops.

Father Patrick Delahanty, executive director of the conference and sacramental moderator at St. Martin de Porres and St. Augustine churches, led the 
discussion on legislative issues.

The goal of the discussion, Father Delahanty said, was to inform the participants about key legislation so they felt 
comfortable talking about the issues with their representatives and senators. The discussion would be especially help-
ful to first-time attendees, he said.

“This is not something 
people deal with everyday in 
detail,” he said. “We want to 
get people educated so they are
knowledgeable. A lot of people feel insecure when talking 
with legislators.”

One first-time attendee, Ruth Winstead from St. Augustine Church, said she attended this year’s Catholics @ the Capitol because she wanted to see if she could make a difference.

“I came to see what it’s all about and what all goes on and to understand what role I play,” Winstead said.

Some of the issues and bills Father Delahanty and Jason Hall, policy analyst at the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, discussed were:

  • House Bill 145, which would end the death penalty for individuals with severe mental illness.
  • House Bill 332, which would cap the interest rate on payday loans at 36%.
  • Senate Bill 75, which deals with religious liberty for members of the Schwartzentruber Amish community.

The two gave advice on how to strategically talk to members of the legislature and answered questions concerning the proposed legislation.

Earlier in the day participants had the opportunity to attend a session on basic lobbying techniques.

John Goss said both sessions were informative and helpful and that he planned to take what he learned back to St. Pius X Church, where he is a member.

“I plan to go back to my concerned citizens and CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together) groups and tell them what we discussed and how they can … get more involved.

“I’m always amazed that we vote these people in and then act like we can’t do anything. Voting is important but knowing about the bills is too. You’ve got to be active,” Goss said.

Father Delahanty said he hoped the participants take away a sense of knowledge from the conference.

“I hope they feel like their voices are heard. A lot of people think legislators don’t listen but a lot really do listen to the public,” he said.

Following the discussion session, Diocese of Owensboro Bishop William F. Medley, former pastor at St. Bernadette Church, celebrated Mass at the hotel for the participants, and Father Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, gave the keynote address at a banquet.

Also in Frankfort for the Catholics @ the Capitol conference were students from Mercy Academy.

Leading up to the conference, the students at Mercy prepared for meetings with their legislators by doing research and attending a talk given by Father Delahanty, according to Rick Blackwell, service learning coordinator at Mercy.

Following the conference the students will write a reflection on the experience, Blackwell said, and “decide on the next steps to try to influence passage on one of these important bills.”
To learn more about the Catholic Conference of Kentucky or how to become a Faithful Citizen Advocate, visit the conference website at www.ccky.org.

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