Over 400 Catholics from around the state, of which 34 were from Rio Grande Valley, gathered in Austin to participate in the Life and Family Life Advocacy Day at the State Capitol on March 31. Donning blue t-shirts that read “One Catholic Voice — Life, Charity, Justice,” volunteers from around the state made visits to legislative offices to address public policy priorities of the Bishops of Texas.

“As a community of faith, we have a moral obligation to be involved in our political process,” said Andrew Rivas, Executive Director of the Texas Catholic Conference. “We are called to share our Catholic Teaching with our civic leaders so that they can make the best decisions on behalf of our overall community, especially for the most vulnerable in our society, which includes those who cannot represent themselves.”

The Advocacy Day began in prayer at Mass celebrated by Bishop Gregory Aymond, of the Diocese of Austin, and concelebrated by Bishop Armando Ochoa, of the Diocese of El Paso, as well as other clergy from around the state.

“We come here to speak of the value of family life, the value of human life, and we do so respectfully, with perseverance, and determination, knowing that God is working in us,” said Bishop Aymond during his homily.

Participants in the Advocacy Day were recognized in the House and Senate chambers, and Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú opened the Senate chamber in prayer.

“We are born into families. This was by Your design, to reflect Your marvelous wisdom, for you are a God of love, graciousness, and unity,” said Bishop Cantú. “Give us clarity to discern your wisdom, an untiring resolve for justice, compassion for the weak, love for truth, and respect for every human person.”

After a quick lunch, volunteer groups began their Capitol visits. Over the course of the day, every single legislative office in the Capitol received a visit from concerned Catholics who discussed the importance of funding abortion alternatives providers, programs that encourage healthy marriages and families, abstinence education, Choose Life License Plates, and adult stem cell research, while opposing the use of the death penalty as well as any funding for embryonic stem cell research, cloning, or comprehensive sex education. Diocesan directors and representatives made visits to the Speaker’s office and also visited with Governor Rick Perry, who shared a YouTube video with them.

Once the visits were complete, several volunteers were able to submit testimony on two house bills, HB 741 and HB 1567, which were being heard in committee that day. Both bills would reduce the focus on abstinence education during education on human sexuality. Twice as many witnesses testified against these bills as for them, a committee clerk told the Texas Catholic Conference the following day.

At a debriefing at the conclusion of the event, several volunteers stated that they had positive visits and felt that their visits helped shed light on the issues they were advocating upon.

Many also mentioned their intent to continue to follow-up with their legislators back in their districts.

Diocesan staff and volunteers promoted the Advocacy Day as an opportunity to engage in public policy in the State and helped raise awareness for the Catholic Call to Faithful Citizenship. Several Dioceses held advocacy day trainings to organize and prepare their volunteers for the day. Participation in grassroots advocacy is an important component of the Catholic Call to Faithful Citizenship. In addition to advocacy days, the Texas Catholic Conference also sends out email Action Alerts and e-newsletters to keep Texas Catholics informed legislatively.

For more information on the Texas Catholic Conference and its work on behalf of the Bishops of Texas, visit www.TXcatholic.org.