Catholics put ‘Faith in Action’ at the State Capitol

Bishops Daniel Garcia and Joe Vásquez greet some of the youth who visited the State Capitol for Catholic Advocacy Day on April 4. (Photo by Enedelia J. Obregón)

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

It was a sea of blue as thousands of faithful from throughout Texas donned their Faith in Action T-shirts and descended upon the State Capitol to lobby legislators on life issues during Catholic Advocacy Day on April 4.
Texas bishops from throughout the state as well as Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston and San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller visited state representatives and senators as well as the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker.
Constituents joined the bishops in expressing support for immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship; improvements to the foster care system that would allow foster parents to maintain fidelity to their faith; regulations for payday and auto-title loans that now charge usurious rates; and life issues such as opposing all public funding to abortion providers, including funds for contraceptives.
Bishop Wm. Michael Mulvey of Corpus Christi provided the opening prayer for House of Representatives and Bishop Brandon J. Cahill of Victoria did the same for the Senate.
At the mid-day rally, DiNardo prayed for those in government.
“May they recognize (God) in the foreigner and immigrant, in those marginalized or on the fringes of society –– the unborn, the sick and suffering,” he said. “May we be the voice for the voiceless.”
Bishop Michael Sis of San Angelo reminded the faithful they must continue efforts to protect the basic right to life.
“In 2015 more than 55,000 unborn children were killed by abortion in Texas,” he said. “Each one of those children was created in God’s image.”
Bishop Sis prayed that all people who are pro-life be filled with hope and not fall to despair.
“We will work with our legislators for the protection of human life,” he said. “We can never grow tired of speaking up for those who can’t speak up for themselves.”
Austin Bishop Joe Vásquez, who is also chair of the Committee on Migration for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told those at the rally that the Catholic Church has a long tradition of helping immigrants.
“It’s a moral issue because every person is created in God’s image,” he said. “The Lord calls his people to care for migrants –– to care for the sojourners.
“All of us can trace our heritage to recent immigrants,” Bishop Vásquez said. “They came to this nation with hopes of a better life. Many are fleeing violence just like the Holy Family fled the violence of Herod.”
Citing the Texas bishops’ opposition to SB4, Bishop Vásquez said we should reject the idea that “migrants are a problem to be solved.”
“They are our brothers and sisters,” he said, reminding the audience that in Matthew 25 Jesus states that “whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do to me.”
Archbishop García-Siller lauded the number of students from Catholic schools who were participating in Advocacy Day.
“It is the responsibility of Catholic schools to help carry the values of the church,” he said. “The Catholic Church is one, holy, catholic and apostolic though we come from all different places.”
As missionaries and disciples who take seriously the command to take care of our brothers and sisters –– especially those in most need –– we must see to it that all people of God are protected and defended.
Claudia Somerville and Marc Martinez brought 12 students from St. Pius X Catholic High School in Houston.
She teaches a senior course on society and moral issues and he is academic dean. They have been bringing students for the last several legislative sessions.
“We want them to know how things work and that they have a voice and that they can make a change,” Somerville said. “Many of them don’t feel excited about voting. This shows them that together they can make a difference.”
Martinez said doing this makes them realize that they do have a voice and can influence the people making decisions at the State Capitol.
Natalia Hernandez, 11, a student at Medina Valley Middle School in Castroville, came with her grandmother, Gloria Gamez, and her uncle, Father Steven Gamez, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in San Antonio.
“I like being able to see the Catholic community coming together to see what’s going on making laws,” she said.
Gloria Gamez said she wanted her granddaughter to learn about advocacy and the opportunity to support laws that support Catholic values.
Father Gamez said it’s important for spiritual leaders to teach the faithful not to keep their faith life and their social life separate.
“Your primary identity is interwoven with the understanding that as daughters and sons of our Holy Father we are instruments of God,” he said. 
Voting then becomes a way of voicing our moral and social values as an expression of faith.
Many people don’t think they are worthy of being heard or of being leaders in supporting and promoting those values, he said.
“God chooses the ordinary to do extraordinary things,” Father Gamez said. “When God first called on Moses he didn’t think he was worthy. We just have to trust that God will give us the words. We are just messengers.”