Share the Journey – Faithful Catholics, faithful citizens

Mark Bouchard

The term “faithful citizenship” recognizes our dual heritage as both faithful Catholics and citizens in a democratic society. We hold rights and duties, both in participating in the civic order but also as “citizens of the heavenly Kingdom.”

The U.S. bishops’ document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” says, “It is as citizens faithful to the Lord Jesus that we contribute most effectively to the civil order.”

We are invited, challenged, to practice our faith in many ways over the course of our lifetime. The Beatitudes, one of many examples, come to mind. Another example is to exercise our right and responsibility to participate in our “civil order” in our efforts to make our community, our country, our world, a better place.

Catholics have a long history of contributing to the development of civil society. Through advocacy efforts, the message of the Gospels is carried to our legislators. Working for justice takes us to a particularly poignant place in our faith. It has never been easy as far as the energy and effort that it might take to pursue any issue of justice. It never will. And there are many issues.

In this fight for justice, God gives us a special gift, hope, which Pope Benedict describes in “Caritas in Veritate” as “burst[ing] into our lives as something not due to us, something that transcends every law of justice.” Thus we take up the task of serving the common good with joy and hope, confident that God, who “so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” walks with us and strengthens us on the way.

Over the past years, Catholic Charities of Louisville, in solidarity with the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and United States Conference of Catholic of Bishops, has promoted and carried out advocacy work toward the “bringing our message of making this world a better place” for everyone.

One way that “carrying the message” is practiced is by visiting our elected officials to express the views of the Catholic Church on issues of vital importance.

Groups from parishes have participated by inviting state legislators into conversations. A number of schools working with Catholic Charities have met with federal and state lawmakers.

In June of 2019, St. Stephen Martyr School students and teachers visited the international offices of Catholic Relief Services, where they learned about the work of the church overseas. They also visited the national headquarters of Catholic Charities USA. Staff from both organizations walked the students through the process of an advocacy meeting with lawmakers.

It is vital to our future that we embrace the hope which Pope Benedict writes about in “Caritas in Veritate.” It is vital that we continue to present our voices in the civic arena. It is vital to sustain our faith by being responsible citizens as time moves on. It is vital that we teach our young to be involved in civil duties.

Mark Bouchard serves in the Office of Mission Advancement at Catholic Charities Louisville.

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