Catholic Voice Update | Feb. 9 - Maryland Catholic Conference

Catholic Voice Update | Feb. 9

Catholic Advocacy Day is in ONE Week!


Join Catholics from across Maryland on our one-day push to have as many Catholics as possible contact their legislators on key bills. Next Tuesday, Feb. 16, we will send you emails (or texts, if you signed up) and post our bills online and on social media so you can join in from wherever you are.

Watch the invitation from Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory

Advocacy Day Bills

We anticipate one of the action alerts for Advocacy Day will be in support of BOOST scholarships for low-income Maryland families to choose a non-public school education, but the final decision on which bills to highlight will come after we have been able to review all of the newly filed bills and also consider where bills are in the legislative process, so stay tuned!

More than 2,100 bills have been introduced to date, including a couple of hundred on this past Friday, the day the House “hopper” closed (when bills can be submitted through the regular process).

What We are Working On

As of this week, the Maryland Catholic Conference will have provided testimony on nearly 100 bills of concern to Catholics, across a wide range of topics. Below are just a few of the bills we are tracking. You can see our testimony on our website as it is posted and read the bills. (The testimony list is updated several times each week.)

Support for Pregnant and Parenting Students

Three House bills this session focus on pregnant and parenting students in public schools: HB 359, 401 and 439. “We want to help make sure teen parents don’t have to choose between their child and their education,” said Molly Sheahan, associate director for respect life advocacy, adding, “Research has also demonstrated a strong link between parents’ educational level and children’s well-being.”

HB 359 and HB 439 would collect and analyze data (respecting privacy) on the number of pregnant or parenting students – fathers and mothers. “Good data will help Maryland learn more about the unique challenges of these students and what it takes to encourage, prepare and support them,” Sheahan noted.

HB 401 would require the state Department of Education to develop a model policy to support the educational goals of young parents, such as a lactation room for new mothers, and advice on transportation and child care, issues that end up becoming barriers for them in continuing their education.

Paid Family Leave

Only 17 percent of working adults in Maryland have access to paid family leave, which creates a real hardship for families across the state: new birth-, adoptive- or foster parents, adults caring for elderly parents or facing a medical emergency, and families caring for a wounded service member. The Time to Care Act (HB 375 and SB 211) create a new insurance plan for families.

“Depending on their income, workers would be eligible for $50 - $1,000 per week, for up to 12 weeks,” said MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice at the Conference. “This bill is to assist parents, whether welcoming a new child into the family, taking care of a medical emergency or caring for aging parents,” he said.

BOOST Scholarships

Since 2016, BOOST (Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today) scholarships have helped thousands of low-income Maryland families place their children in a school that fits their child’s needs. “BOOST is about both social and economic justice and access to Catholic schools. It offers something for everyone to get behind and is critically important for these kids,” said Garrett O’Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, adding, “We saw another large increase in demand this year.”

Expanding Food Access to Low-Income Households

When a family doesn’t know where its next meal will come from, it can be difficult to focus on other areas of life, including work and housing. MJ Kraska notes that access to food is part of respecting the dignity of the human person. The Conference will submit testimony this week on HB 101, which seeks to expand food access to low-income households that receive or are eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

Pray with Bishop Lewandowski

Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR, leads our prayer this week for Maryland’s elected officials. He is also pastor of Sagrado Corazon de Jesus/Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Baltimore (District 46).

Click above to watch and listen (in Spanish, with English subtitles) or visit our prayer page, where you can see all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish).

 Of Note

Feb. 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of Prayer for the Sick. May we hold in prayer all those who are suffering with COVID-19 and with other illnesses, that they may experience the healing presence of Christ. Read the Holy Father’s message here.

Finally, it was wonderful to see and meet everyone at the Feb. 4 March for Life, which was smaller and socially distant this year due to the pandemic.