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Session Wrap Up | April 16, 2021


Session Round Up

It was a wild end of session as both the Senate and House of Delegates convened on-site in Annapolis, working through the weekend and until midnight this past Monday to negotiate and vote. Their presence in town was notable after three months of Zoom hearings.

The legislators tackled major issues, from an override of the Kirwan Commission veto, which means a significant expansion of funds for Maryland schools (including funding for non-public pre-kindergarten); scholarships for low-income families; police reform; juvenile justice; immigration; and new support for at-risk pregnant and parenting women.

Out of 2,771 bills introduced during the 90-day session, a minority of which were passed into law. Our staff has spent this week reviewing the final text of some of the bills as amendments came fast and furious in the final days.

“We were uncertain how the session would turn out given the realities of COVID-19. That changed how everyone engaged with issues and each other. I’m really proud of the team at the Conference for adapting to the remote session and to parishioners who contacted legislators and responded when we sought people to testify. A lot of wonderful things came out of this session,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference.

While we can’t go through all of the nearly 200 bills the Conference weighed in on, we wanted to thank everyone who participated in Advocacy Day and responded to our action alerts, and to share some of the highlights with you.



BOOST scholarships: After intense debate, the BOOST Scholarship Program was fully funded in the state budget at $10 million for the 2021-22 school year (Operating Budget SB 492/HB 588). This is a 40 percent increase over last year and the highest funding since the program’s introduction in 2016.  Families with low incomes in 2020 are encouraged to apply as soon as possible! The deadline is May 17 (2020 tax returns must be completed) so time is short.

Support for non-public schools: Two programs, the Nonpublic Aging Schools Program and the Nonpublic Safety Improvements Program (Capital Budget SB 492/HB 590) were funded at $3.5 million each. Another $6 million was allocated for the Nonpublic Textbook and Technology Programs (Operating Budget SB 491/HB 588) for the upcoming year.

Repeal of life without parole for juveniles: Individuals charged while under 18 years old and sentenced to life in prison will now be eligible to go before a parole board after 20 years to seek a shorter sentence (SB 494 / HB 409).


RELIEF Act: In response to the devastation the pandemic has had on low-income Marylanders, the RELIEF Act expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, repeals taxes on unemployment benefits, and provides a state stimulus payment, among other provisions.

Environment: The passage of SB 674/HB 1207 means meaningful reforms to the Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, while SB 121/HB 51 requires an environmental justice analysis for certain zoning requests, and a mandate for the Commission to recommend strategies for oversight of local zoning decisions that have environmental justice concerns.

Homeless services: The Mobile Laundry for the Homeless Pilot Program (HB 189) will provide funding for non-profit organizations to develop free mobile laundry services for individuals and families who are homeless, which addresses their human dignity.

Housing: The Right to Counsel bill, to ensure that low-income tenants have legal representation in eviction proceedings (HB 16), passed. Unfortunately, the companion funding bill did not so this is an unfunded mandate, but a good step in the right direction.

Immigration: The legislature approved and funded a new Governor’s Office for Immigrant Affairs (SB 85/HB 15), to develop neighborhood-based centers for immigrant services, assist in combatting crimes against immigrants and supporting civic and economic participation among immigrant communities. SB 478/HB 16, the Dignity Not Detention Act, passed, prohibiting the State or any local jurisdiction from entering into agreements facilitating immigration-related detention by private entities.

Legal services funding: Funding for the Maryland Legal Services Corporation (SB 413/HB 514) was expanded from $2 million to $8 million. The funds come from unclaimed money from judgments of restitution. The Legal Services organization works with non-profits to support legal aid programs statewide.

Police reform: An important part of the discussion on police reform was SB 74/HB 88, which requires law enforcement agencies to provide officers access to confidential mental health services, such as counseling, peer support, crisis counseling and stress management.

Diaper donation tax credit: Marylanders may receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 for donations of diapers or feminine hygiene products (or funds for these products) made to pregnancy centers, diaper banks and shelters that distribute these items to families in need (SB 622/HB711). Over 50,000 of the state’s infants and toddlers live in low-income families.

Pre-natal care grant expansion: The state’s Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program is being expanded to $1.1 million in 2023 and up to $3.1 million in 2025 (SB 777/HB 1349). Hospitals and qualified health centers, including Catholic providers, are now eligible for grants to be used solely for prenatal care to help ensure a healthy pregnancy for mom and baby. This program will be especially important for low-income mothers who are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care.

Perinatal hospice information: Unfortunately, SB 891/HB 1112, legislation to require easy access to information on perinatal hospice services for parents facing a terminal diagnosis for their unborn child did not pass this session, the first year it was introduced. However, the bill, drafted by Maryland Catholic Conference staff, had a very strong showing for a first year and received widespread interest and bipartisan support so we are looking forward to continue to advocate for families in this difficult situation.


Pray with Mother Mary Lange

The staff of the Maryland Catholic Conference placed its work under the intercession of Mother Mary Lange throughout the session. In fact, throughout the year, we start our staff meetings praying for her beatification. As we wrap up the session’s work, we invite you to join us in praying to this holy woman whose deep Catholic faith transformed her adopted city of Baltimore and, in many ways, our Church nationally. Mother Mary Lange, pray for us.

Prayer for the Beatification of Mother Mary Lange

O Almighty and Eternal God,

You granted Mother Mary Lange extraordinary trust in Your providence.

You endowed her with humility, courage, holiness and an extraordinary sense of service to the poor and sick.

You enabled her to found the Oblate Sisters of Providence and provide educational, social and spiritual ministry especially to the African American community.

Mother Lange’s love for all enabled her to see Christ in each person, and the pain of prejudice and racial hatred never blurred that vision.

Deign to raise her to the highest honors of the altar in order that, through her intercession, more souls may come to a deeper understand and a more fervent love of You.

Heavenly Father, glorify Your heart by granting also this favor (mention your request) which we ask through the intercession of Your faithful servant, Mother Mary Lange. Amen.


Of Note 

The Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a today opposing the FDA’s decision to expand access to chemical abortion pills by not enforcing the “in-person dispensing” requirement in place since the presidency of Bill Clinton. 

Novena for Moms in Need starts April 19: Join Catholics across the U.S. for a Novena for Moms in Need. The St. Gianna Novena starts on Monday, April 19. Get the details, resources and more here on the USCCB website. 

Earth Day: April 22 is Earth Day and a great opportunity to reflect upon Laudato Si: Caring for Our Common Home, the landmark encyclical from Pope Francis. Starting in May, the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development will launch the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, engaging the Church in a journey to sustainability. Read the encyclical and use the resources here

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month: The (arch)dioceses serving Maryland have had child protection policies in place for decades. These include mandated prevention education, reporting and background checks, as well as pastoral care. Learn more here about statewide efforts, join Cardinal Wilton Gregory for a Mass on April 21, 12 noon (live-streamed here), and learn the signs of abuse and tips for prevention from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.


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Catholic Voice Update | April 5, 2021


Countdown to Sine Die

Sine die - the adjournment of the Maryland General Assembly session - is almost here. The legislature will wrap up its regular session next Monday, April 12.

“This final week can become very intense as the House of Delegates and Senate advocate for bills and try to work out solutions to their differences,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director for the Maryland Catholic Conference.

“Most of the legislation we have advocated for remains active. This includes police reform, juvenile justice, immigration, pregnancy support, housing, and more. We are being very vigilant as bills move through conference committees and votes,” she added.

“The most important thing Maryland Catholics can do this week is keep the work of the General Assembly in their prayer intentions. One easy way to do this is to pray along with Archbishop Lori, who is our video prayer leader this week. We also encourage prayers to Servant of God Mother Mary Lange.”

We will have a session wrap up in an upcoming Catholic Voice email so stay tuned. Both chambers did vote last week to drop the official Maryland state song. Written during the Civil War, “Maryland, My Maryland” became the state's official song in 1939. The Catholic Review took a look at the issue from a Catholic perspective.


Pray with Archbishop Lori

The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore and chairman of the Board of Governors of the Maryland Catholic Conference, offers a message and prayer for the General Assembly in this final week of session.

Click the image above or visit our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) on Monday at 10 a.m.


Support for Seafarers

The Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay mean shipping and fishing are major industries for Maryland. The Catholic Church has an active apostolate of prayer and support for the workers. A partnership of several organizations, including the Stella Maris National Office and the Coalition of Catholic Organizations Against Human Trafficking, of which the Conference is a member, has just released new resources:

 


Of Note: Celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday

Divine Mercy Sunday, when we focus in a special way on God’s mercy, is next week. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has a number of resources for the observance, including the origins of this devotion from private revelations to Polish Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska.

Just last year, Pope Francis said in his homily for Divine Mercy Sunday:

“At one time, the Saint, with satisfaction, told Jesus that she had offered him all of her life and all that she had. But Jesus’ answer stunned her: ‘You have not offered me the thing is truly yours.’ What had that holy nun kept for herself? Jesus said to her with kindness: ‘My daughter, give me your failings’ (10 October 1937). We too can ask ourselves: ‘Have I given my failings to the Lord? Have I let him see me fall so that he can raise me up?’ Or is there something I still keep inside me? A sin, a regret from the past, a wound that I have inside, a grudge against someone, an idea about a particular person… The Lord waits for us to offer him our failings so that he can help us experience his mercy.”

The Divine Mercy devotion was particularly dear to Pope Saint John Paul II; he canonized the Polish Sr. Faustina on April 30, 2000. In celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday you can celebrate by making a favorite dessert of the Holy Father, Papieska kremowka (“Papal” cream cake).


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Catholic Voice Update | March 30, 2021


Two Weeks Left in Legislative Session

The General Assembly wraps up its annual legislative session in just two weeks. Right now, the main focus is on committees. Most bills have passed from one legislative body to the other (Senate to House or House to Senate) and are being considered by committees in the second chamber.

Others have moved on to conference committees. A conference committee has six members, pulled from House and Senate, who work to resolve differences in a bill. The committee issues a report. If it is accepted by both chambers, the bill goes on to a final vote. If not, the bill may be sent back to conference committee or left to fail.

After passage by House and Senate, most legislation goes on to the Governor. He has 30 days to veto a bill. If he doesn’t within that time frame, a bill becomes law. There are a couple of exceptions to this process. Budget bills become law upon final passage and cannot be vetoed. Also, the governor cannot veto a constitutional amendment.

The process can get complicated, so here are some great resources from the Maryland General Assembly:

 

If you are interested in a bill, you can click on a bill to watch its progress. Testimony from the Maryland Catholic Conference is online here, and includes a link to the bill page. Click “history” to see how it has moved along.

Legislation we are still monitoring include a number of bills on education (including BOOST funding), environment, juvenile justice, police reform and pro-life issues.


New Mass Vaccination Site in Maryland

Maryland is opening another mass vaccination site on April 5 at the Germantown campus of Montgomery College. Anyone 60 or older and other eligible residents (categories are here) can pre-register online or by phone at 855-634-6829 for this or any of the state’s mass vaccination sites, including Six Flags America Theme Park, Regency Furniture Stadium (Blue Crabs Stadium), Wicomico Civic Center, Hagerstown Premium Outlets and M&T Bank Stadium. You will be notified when an appointment is open.

As of Monday, March 29, over 911,500 Marylanders were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 2.6 million doses had been administered, according to the state’s vaccination dashboard.

In the news this week: Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski was quoted in an Associated Press article on efforts by churches to help make vaccines accessible to all. From the article:

“’This community has been decimated by the pandemic. We want people to get through the red tape,’ said Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, an auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. The Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish, where vaccinations are taking place, is in one of Baltimore’s hardest-hit ZIP codes, a mostly Hispanic neighborhood where as many as 48% of COVID-19 tests were positive at one point.”


Join Fr. Francisco Aguirre in Prayer

This week’s prayer for elected officials is led by Father Francisco Aguirre, pastor of St. Catherine Laboure, a vibrant parish in Wheaton, Md. (District 18). St. Catherine is one of several parishes partnering with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services to provide COVID testing as part of the Latino Health Initiative.

Join Fr. Francisco by clicking the image above or visiting our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) every Monday at 10 a.m.


Of Note this Holy Week

Easter bread: This is a favorite recipe recommended by one of our staff. Enjoy!

Prayer resources: As we reflect upon the suffering of Christ during Holy Week, may we also keep in prayer the suffering of the poor and vulnerable. Check with your parish and (arch)diocese for Holy Week liturgies, and consider some of these options:

 

Have a blessed Holy Week and Easter.


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Catholic Voice Update | March 16, 2021


World Down Syndrome Day

The staff of the Maryland Catholic Conference has long celebrated World Down Syndrome Day, held annually on March 21, and this year is no different. We hope you will join us in raising awareness. Here are some of our favorite events and ideas:

  • Sign up for the official Maryland observance of World Down Syndrome Day. Join First Lady Yumi Hogan, state legislators and other leaders, followed by a virtual dance party on Friday, March 19, 3:30-4:30 p.m. The Conference is a proud sponsor of this celebration.
  • Join in #LotsofSocks. Wear bright, colorful, wild socks, snap a photo and post on social media with the hashtags #WDSD21 and #LotsofSocks and tag us @MDCatholic (those are our socks in the photo above).
  • Pray along with Meghan Jones, our leader for this week’s prayer for elected officials. Scroll down to our prayer video for more about Meghan.
  • Add a frame to your Facebook profile image by clicking this link.
  • Look for the lights! On Sunday, the Governor’s Mansion, M&T Stadium and the Capital Wheel at National Harbor will be lit up in blue and gold to raise awareness.

 

Catholic Coalition for Special Education

One organization that is making a difference for Marylanders with Down Syndrome is the Catholic Coalition for Special Education (CCSE). Based in Kensington, Md., CCSE helps ensure children with disabilities have access to the same opportunities as their siblings and peers, including a Catholic education.

CCSE has provided $1.1 million in grant money to 31 Catholic schools across Maryland, while CCSE technical assistance helps schools expand their ability to serve students with special needs.

The partnerships CCSE creates with schools and educators is vital to its mission. This past weekend, CCSE honored four Catholic school teachers at its virtual Spring Benefit, for their commitment to inclusive teaching and to helping all students reach their potential.

The “Making IT Happen” honorees were Christina Green, on the faculty of Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac for 31 years and currently a teacher and assistant principal; Alison Interlandi, who taught at Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda for eight years until moving closer to Annapolis; David Long, who has been at Lourdes for 23 years and is assistant principal; and Donna Reese, a dance instructor with the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington for 18 years who ensures that students of all abilities are included not only in studio classes, but as the CCSE shared in its Saturday program, “under the lights.”

Congratulations and thank you to these educators!


BOOST Applications Open

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The State of Maryland is now accepting applications for next year’s BOOST scholarships, pending legislative approval of BOOST funding. BOOST scholarships empower families with limited incomes to send their child to a Catholic or other non-public school. Go to www.marylandboost.org for a link to the state’s application, videos with BOOST families, and more.

While applications are open, the General Assembly is still debating funding for BOOST, and there are a couple of important votes this week. On Monday, the House Appropriations Committee voted against increased funding. The waiting list for BOOST tripled this year so this is a program that families want. We are now looking to the state Senate to help more Maryland families. Please contact your legislator if you receive an alert and, if you didn’t, please keep this intention in prayer. 


Featured Legislation

With one month to go in the legislative session, we are monitoring, following and advocating on approximately 170 bills that are at different points in the House and/or Senate. Many of the bills have the potential to make a significant difference in supporting vulnerable residents. Among them:

The Trust Act (SB 88)

The Trust Act (Senate Bill 88/House Bill 304) provides important clarity regarding the roles of local and state law enforcement involving the immigrant community; in particular, notification procedures from local or state entities to federal agencies without a federal judicial warrant.

MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice at the Conference, notes that “Senate Bill 88 balances the needs for both public safety and immigration … rebuild[ing] the necessary trust between law enforcement and immigrants throughout Maryland.”

He added, “When immigrants feel safe around law enforcement, they will feel safe in reporting crimes and sharing other critical information with the local police and that will help the authorities keep our communities safe for everyone.”

SB 88/HB304 is sponsored by Senator Will Smith (D-20, Montgomery County) and Delegate Wanika Fisher (D-47B, Prince George’s County).

Prenatal Care Bill Would Help Pregnant Women

We continue to push ahead on Senate Bill 777, which would expand grant funding for prenatal care, and allow additional providers, including Catholic hospitals, to participate in a program that currently is limited to counties.

A lack of prenatal care is correlated with higher infant and mother mortality, pre-term births, low birth weight and other serious issues. Here in Maryland, 30% of women receive inadequate care. A lack of access, ability to pay, or ineligibility for Medicaid leaves Black and Latina mothers disproportionately at risk. In 2017, only half of Latina mothers received adequate prenatal care in Prince George’s County, and the problems don’t end there.

“Our parish, Sacred Heart of Jesus – Sagrado Corazón de Jesús, in Baltimore’s Highlandtown, is in a wonderfully vibrant community, but many of our parishioners are immigrants and low income. They don’t have access to the kind of prenatal care that most families take for granted,” said Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR, who serves as pastor, adding, “This program would make a real difference for both mothers and babies.”

Testimony on bills is posted after the hearings here throughout the week.


Join Meghan Jones in Prayer

This week’s prayer for elected officials is led by Montgomery County parishioner Meghan Jones. As Meghan notes in her prayer introduction, something special about her is that she was born with an extra chromosome. She currently is a student at Montgomery College, where she is getting a certificate in ASL. Please pray along with Meghan in English and ASL.

Join Sr. Marilyn by clicking the image above or visiting our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) every Monday at 10 a.m.


Of Note

State tax filing deadline extended. The State of Maryland has extended the deadline to file 2020 tax returns from April 15, 2021 to July 15, 2021.

This is the Year of St. Joseph and this Friday is the Solemnity of St. Joseph. The Dialog and Catholic News Service discuss the traditions of St. Joseph and whether you can eat meat on a Solemnity when it falls on a Friday in Lent. A popular St. Joseph food is zeppole. We know better than to suggest we know the best recipe, but here’s one that is popular online.

EWTN News in Depth featured Darren Stern, a parishioner in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in a segment called, “Sharing Faith and a ‘Little Jesus.’” Mr. Stern talks about his faith and work. Watch here.

Prayer for St. Patrick’s Day: St. Patrick’s Day Breastplate is a beautiful and ancient prayer attributed to the saint. You may be familiar with at least part of the prayer (below). Join us in praying the full prayer, online here, this March 17.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me…


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Catholic Voice Update | March 9, 2021


Catholic Guidance for COVID Vaccines

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Last week, the Federal Drug Administration approved a third COVID-19 vaccine, resulting in three now in use: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. What should Catholics know about receiving these COVID-19 vaccines?

  • Our bishops have encouraged Catholics to get vaccinated (unless medically indicated otherwise). Vaccination against COVID-19 is an act of charity in light of the virus’s grave risk to the life and health of others.
  • Catholics may receive any of the three vaccines offered. There has been discussion in media about the morality of the vaccines, but the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes it is morally acceptable to receive COVID-19 vaccines that use a compromised fetal cell line in development, in light of the grave risk to public health and availability. Their document, linked below, provides a discussion of this topic, including remote cooperation.
  • Delaying or declining a vaccination may risk the health and life of others, especially those who are not able to be vaccinated due to medical conditions. As the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, with the Pontifical Academy of Life, notes, “On the moral responsibility of undergoing vaccination … it is necessary to reiterate how this issue also involves the relationship between personal health and public health, showing their close interdependence. In the light of this connection, we consider it important that a responsible decision be taken in this regard, since refusal of the vaccine may also constitute a risk to others.”

Resources


Featured Legislation

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Among the bills the Maryland Catholic Conference will submit testimony on this week:

Establishing Emancipation Day as a Legal Holiday

The Maryland Catholic Conference is submitting testimony in support of Senate Bill 0142, which would establish Nov. 1 as Maryland Emancipation Day, a legal state holiday. In 1864, Marylanders voted to abolish slavery – the first southern state (below the Mason-Dixon Line) that ended slavery through a vote of the people. The new state constitution went into effect on Nov. 1, 1864, more than a year before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Read more about Maryland Emancipation Day in the Washington Post.

Reentry Success Act of 2021

A hearing is being held today on House Bill 1233, the Reentry Success Act of 2021. This legislation, which the Conference supports, would assist inmates in successfully re-entering society after they have served their sentence. Support would include screening and access to private mediation between an inmate and a person who will assist with his or her reentry, social services and public transportation at the time of release. The goal of restorative justice practices such as these is to reduce recidivism.

As our associate director for social and economic justice, MJ Kraska, notes, “When inmates are given the tools for success upon post-release their chances to break free from their often-challenging circumstances and live productive lives are exponentially enhanced.”

Testimony from the Maryland Catholic Conference is available online here after a hearing.


World Down Syndrome Day

World Down Syndrome Day is March 21, but we are starting the celebration early here in Maryland.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is proud to again be a cosponsor of Maryland’s official observance, which will be held on March 19, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Join First Lady Yumi Hogan, legislative leaders, and Carol Beatty, Secretary for the Maryland Department of Disabilities, and then stay for a virtual dance party. The event is free.

You can register for Maryland’s March 19 Online Celebration and Dance Party through our partner, The Arc, and download the flyer here.

More Ways to Celebrate

  • Join #LotsofSocks: #LotsofSocks is an international campaign to raise awareness of Down syndrome. 

    • Wear and encourage your friends, school classes, youth groups and whoever you can think of to take photos of themselves wearing bright, colorful, happy and wild socks!
    • Post your photo on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with the hashtags #WDSD21 and #LotsofSocks
    • Tag @mdcatholic in your social media posts and the Maryland Catholic Conference will share our favorites!

  • Update your Zoom: download this Zoom background for March 21 
  • Read this column from Molly Sheahan, the Conference’s associate director for respect life advocacy

Join Bishop Malooly in Prayer

Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington, leads us in our prayer for our elected officials this week. The diocese includes the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as well as the State of Delaware.  Bishop Malooly recorded this prayer before his recent bypass surgery. As he continues his recovery, please keep him in prayer, as well!

Click the image above or visit our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) every Monday at 10 a.m.


Of Note

Federal COVID relief legislation excludes Hyde Amendment: The US Senate passed the American Rescue Plan, a COVID-19 relief package, over the weekend (the legislation now goes back to the House for a vote). The bill excludes Hyde Amendment language which prevents the use of federal taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion.

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, with several committee chairs, spoke out before the vote: “For 45 years, the United States Congress – whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans – has maintained that taxpayers should not be forced against their conscience to pay for abortions. Abandoning this compromise in a time of national emergency only serves to divide people in the very moment we should be united. Please, let us instead focus on delivering the COVID relief so desperately needed.”

Pope Francis Pastoral Visit to Iraq: Pope Francis made the first papal visit in history to Iraq this past weekend. He celebrated Mass with the Christian community, met with key national and Muslim leaders, and visited the birthplace of Abraham. Read more about the trip, the Holy Father’s reflections following the visit and about the significance of the region’s history for Christians.

Centenary of the Death of James Cardinal Gibbons: Cardinal Gibbons, the ninth Archbishop of Baltimore and champion of labor and ecumenism, died 100 years ago, on March 24, 1921. Watch the Mass in his honor celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E Lori on March 7.

St. Patrick’s Day is Coming: Enjoy this story about Irish soda bread from the Catholic Review.

Prayers: Yesterday, March 8, was International Women’s Day. Please join in offering a Hail Mary in honor of Catholic women throughout our state who live out their faith in small and large ways every day.


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Catholic Voice Update | March 2, 2021

BOOST Applications May Open Soon

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While we continue to advocate with the General Assembly to expand funding for the popular BOOST scholarships (thank you to everyone who sent our BOOST action alert!), we also anticipate that the Maryland State Department of Education will open up the application process as early as this week. They have done this in prior years, even before the budget was set, so applications could be received and reviewed in time for parents to enroll their children in a school.

“Maryland families want and need more funds for BOOST,” said Maryland Catholic Conference Deputy Director Garrett O’Day, the lead BOOST advocate for the Conference. “It is a very small part of the overall budget, but one that has an incalculable impact on the lives of low-income children and families by empowering them with educational options they did not have before. BOOST is an important complement to the world-class education system Maryland is building, particularly for low-income and minority kids.”

BOOST recipients include children from 21 of 24 Maryland counties. The average household income for a BOOST family is under $36,000. 


Featured Legislation

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The Maryland General Assembly’s session is more than halfway over and days are packed with hearings.

Prenatal Grant Program Hearing

Last week, Melissa Pelaez, a parishioner of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown, provided compelling personal testimony regarding the benefits of prenatal care in a hearing for Senate Bill 777, the Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program Fund, which we highlighted last week.

This bill would expand funding for prenatal care and allow federally qualified health centers, such as Catholic hospitals, to participate in the grant program. As many as 30 percent of women in Maryland receive inadequate prenatal care according to recent data, with those numbers much worse for Black and Latina mothers.

Mrs. Pelaez became pregnant after marrying in 2016. She found a Johns Hopkins prenatal mobile clinic near her that offered pregnancy testing and prenatal care, and she applied for financial aid. “It gave me peace of mind because it was something I didn’t have to worry about,” she said. The program included a range of services, including wellness checks and information on what mothers will need, from diapers to car seats, to help mothers and babies thrive.

Juvenile Justice Reform

Senate Bill 853, sponsored by Senator Jill Carter (D-41) and supported by the Conference, would enact new measures to shift the focus on juveniles accused of crimes from retribution to restorative justice. Among the bill’s proposals, the minimum age to file criminal charges would be raised to age 13. The bill also provides for the use of alternative remedies and rehabilitation, and the development of model policies for youth diversion. In the House of Delegates, the bill (HB 1187) is sponsored by Del. Luke Clippinger (D-46).

Legal Representation for Immigrants

The Conference is submitting testimony in support of House Bill 750. “Our legal system rests upon the principle that everyone is entitled to due process of law and a meaningful opportunity to be heard,” said MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice advocacy.

He notes that this bill would ensure a right to legal representation in some immigration proceedings and calls for a coordinator in the Attorney General’s office to manage resources and services, ensuring covered individuals have this access. The coordinator also would designate community-based organizations to provide outreach and education.

Testimony on bills is posted after the hearings here.


On Pilgrimage for Women's History Month

Maryland may be a small state, but it is one with a deep history of saintly women. The first saint born in the United States, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, ministered here, as did Servants of God Mother Mary Lange and Mary Virginia Merrick, both of whom are in the canonization process.

Why not make a mini-pilgrimage (in-person or virtually) to the sites where they prayed, during Women’s History Month? (Please check websites before visiting regarding access, or to make a virtual pilgrimage.)

Stop 1: St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site, 600 N. Paca St., Baltimore

“Paca Street,” as it’s known, is not only the headquarters for the Sulpician priests and home of the original St. Mary’s Seminary, but the birthplace of three congregations of women religious: Sisters of Charity; Oblate Sisters of Providence; and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Mich. and Pa.).

The existing Seton House was Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s first Maryland home, in 1808, and the place where she decided to take vows as a religious. The historic church was the faith home to Servant of God Mother Mary Lange. A Caribbean immigrant and woman of color, she was encouraged in her deep faith by Sulpician Father James Joubert to found the first religious order for women of African descent, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, in 1829.

Stop 2: National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Emmitsburg

It was here after her year in Baltimore that Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity, the first religious order for women religious in the United States, and the Catholic school that became the seed for Catholic education in the US. The extensive shrine includes a Basilica with her tomb, museum and historic buildings from her life in Emmitsburg.

Stops 3 & 4: St. Paul, Ellicott City, and Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Washington, DC (on the DC-MD line)

Servant of God Mary Virginia Merrick, founder of the National Christ Child Society, has ties to Ellicott City and Chevy Chase. “Miss Mary” spent summers at a family home in Ellicott City, where a fall as a teenager in 1880 resulted in lifelong paralysis. Her disability never stopped her from a life dedicated to helping children. A window at St. Paul, Ellicott City, was commissioned by her in memory of her father. As an adult, she lived in Chevy Chase and attended daily Mass at Blessed Sacrament, where she sat near the statue of the Blessed Mother that is at the front right of the church. (Please check parish websites before visiting in person due to COVID restrictions.)


Join Sr. Marilyn Bouchard in Prayer

The Little Sisters of Jesus and Mary in Salisbury also has had Maryland roots from its founding in 1974. This week the superior, Sr. Marilyn Bouchard, LSJM, leads us in praying for our state elected officials. The sisters’ ministry, The Joseph House, provides critical support for people in need on the Eastern Shore, including financial assistance with utilities, rent, etc.; food pantry; soup kitchen (suspended during COVID); and a day shelter and other programs for the homeless.

Join Sr. Marilyn by clicking the image above or visiting our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish). The prayer also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) every Monday at 10 a.m.


Of Note

In the news: Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore was featured in the Baltimore Sun last week. The parish, led by its pastor, Baltimore Auxiliary Bishop Bruce Lewandowski, CSsR, is on the front lines of the COVID vaccine effort within the immigrant community, and the site of a pop-up vaccination clinic.

National advocacy alert: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has issued an action alert regarding the COVID relief bill before the US Senate. The House version would allow COVID funds to be used for abortion. The alert asking that the Hyde Amendment policy preventing this be included in the legislation. You can send an alert here

Prayers: Please keep in prayer the adults coming into the Catholic Church at Easter. Lent marks the final stage in their journey. The Archdiocese of Washington announced that more than 800 people are preparing to become Catholic during the Easter Vigil; many more also will in the (arch)dioceses of Baltimore and Wilmington.


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Catholic Voice Update | Feb. 23, 2021

Maryland state capitol

Feb. 23, 2021 | Annapolis, MD


We had a great Advocacy Day last week! Thank you to everyone who participated. The messages you sent to your legislators matter – and we had a lot of messages sent!

If you did not have a chance to participate or maybe missed one of the alerts, it’s not too late. Use and share the links below with friends, other school parents, or parishioners whom you think would be interested. It is important that the legislators continue to hear from us.

Learn about the issues (includes links for the three action alert)

Send an alert:


Featured Issues

mcc-testimonyhead_600x200.png

Among the bills the Maryland Catholic Conference is providing testimony on this week:

Public Health - Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program Fund
(SB 0777 | HB 1349)

As many as 30% of Maryland women receive inadequate – or no - prenatal care. The implications can be devastating, with higher infant mortality, low birth weight and other serious health concerns that put a baby and mom at risk. Low-income, minority and immigrant mothers and their children are the most affected.

This bill would expand the Maryland Prenatal and Infant Care Grant Program Fund to $1.1 million in 2023, and then by $1 million per year for the following two years. It also would open eligibility for the grants to a wider range of organizations, including Catholic healthcare systems, hospitals and clinics. Currently, only counties may receive the grants.

“Providing grants to qualified prenatal care providers will ensure the health and safety of mothers and babies who are at risk throughout Maryland,” said Molly Sheahan, associate director for respect life advocacy.

Foreclosure Relief Act of 2021 (HB 1009 | SB 0724)

COVID-19 has hit a lot of families hard and, for many, their home is at risk due to financial loss. This legislation would help hold off foreclosure against families in financial straits when there is a “state of emergency and catastrophic health emergency.” Certain conditions would have to be met and a borrower would need to submit a request to the loan servicer to qualify.

“This can really help families who have been financially hit as a result of the pandemic. Maryland needs a fairer eviction process that focuses on stability, instead of housing loss,” said MJ Kraska, associate director for social and economic justice.

Stimulus Payments for Workers with an ITIN (SB 218)

The Maryland Catholic Conference testified in support of Senate Bill 218, which provides a refundable child tax credit for low-income families (federal adjusted gross income under $6,000). That bill is now before the House of Delegates’ Ways and Means Committee, with a Senate amendment that includes tax relief for low-income individuals and families who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security number. The Conference supports the amendment, which will help immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, who file taxes and have been on the front lines during the pandemic and disproportionately affected.

 Testimony on bills is posted after the hearings here.


Families Testify on BOOST

Senators heard about the positive impact of BOOST during a virtual budget hearing on Monday. Alisha Jordan, principal of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, and several families whose children are benefiting from BOOST testified.  

A mom of three students who depend on BOOST scholarships to attend a Catholic school in Maryland told the legislators that her husband had lost his job. The family income dropped so low that they became eligible to apply. She implored them to continue BOOST, which she told them, “has been a blessing for our family.”

The uncle of two BOOST recipients who also attend a Catholic school spoke next. He urged the senators to support these scholarships, which empower low-income families to send their children to Catholic and other non-public schools. His told them that his nephews were born in El Salvador, but were brought to the United States  for safety in 2012 after gang members murdered their grandfather. With the help of BOOST scholarships, the family was able to move the boys into Catholic schools. The proud uncle noted that they are thriving, making honor roll and bringing home A’s and B’s.

Garrett O’Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, rounded off the testimony by highlighting the need for expanded BOOST funding statewide. He noted the high demand, with 1,300 eligible families on this year’s waiting list. 

If you want to help increase BOOST funding, which benefits families statewide, send your legislators our action alert


State Expands COVID Vaccine Support

Recognizing that many Marylanders may not have access to or be comfortable using the Internet, the Maryland Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Vaccination Support Center, providing telephone assistance with finding vaccine providers.

Vaccine-eligible Marylanders can call daily, 7 a.m.-10 p.m., for information on COVID-19 vaccines, help identifying vaccine providers close to their homes, and assistance with scheduling an appointment at the state's mass vaccination sites, such as Six Flags America in Prince George's County and the Baltimore Convention Center. The number is 1-855-MDGOVAX (1-855-634-6829).

On Feb. 22, Maryland's acting health secretary, Dennis Schrader announced that the a statewide portal for Marylanders to pre-register for appointments at the state-run sites will open in March. 

Vaccination information is available online at https://coronavirus.maryland.gov. Check here to see if you are eligible to receive the vaccine in Maryland yet.  


Pray for Our Elected Officials

With Mother Mary Lange Catholic School

Principal Alisha Jordan started a new adventure this fall: preparing to open a new, state-of-the-art elementary school. When Mother Mary Lange Catholic School opens in Baltimore’s District 40 next fall, it will be the first new Catholic elementary school built in the city in nearly 60 years. A number of students are expected to benefit from BOOST scholarships.

Join Mrs. Jordan as she leads this week’s session prayer for elected officials by clicking the image above or visiting our prayer page, where you can access all of the video prayers from this session and read or download the prayer  (in English and Spanish). The newest prayer video also is posted on Twitter and Facebook (@mdcatholic) every Monday at 10 a.m.


World Down Syndrome Day

March 21 is World Down Syndrome Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of the millions of people worldwide born with a third copy of their 21st chromosome. We will have more soon, but wanted you to save the date and give you one idea now on how you can make a difference!

Wear #LotsOfSocks. Colorful, mismatched, stripey, and wild socks are the hallmarks of World Down Syndrome Day. Raise awareness with your school, church, company, and family and send us photos of how you rock your socks! Email them to us in advance at [email protected] and we might just use your photos as we get the word out – or tag us (@mdcatholic) on social media posts on March 21.


 Of Note

Updates from Maryland's (arch)bishops

  • Cardinal Gregory talked about racism from a personal perspective and about his journey to Catholicism in an interview with Al Roker that aired on NBC’s Today show last week. Watch here.
  • Archbishop Lori has issued an updated pastoral letter on evangelization, “A Light Brightly Visible 2.0” and announced the creation of a new Institute for Evangelization that is focused on parish renewal.
  • In Wilmington, Bishop Malooly continues to recover from his bypass surgery in late January. Please keep him in prayer.

 

Friday fish fries for Lent are on in several parishes, though this year as carryout or drive-through. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has posted a list of parish fish fries here, and The Dialog website notes that St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury, MD, is offering fish fries on three Fridays. Please check in advance that the event is on and note the guidelines.


JOIN THE CATHOLIC ADVOCACY NETWORK

The Catholic Advocacy Network gives you a voice on important issues in Maryland. Learn more and join our network.

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Advocacy Day is Feb. 16 - Get Text Alerts

Maryland Catholic Advocacy Day is almost here and we need your voice! Join Catholics across Maryland to advocate with our state legislators, bringing hope and justice for the vulnerable, families, children, and our Church.

We will highlight three issues for this year’s Advocacy Day, one each from our advocacy areas of education, respect life, and social and economic justice. 

The action alerts will be emailed (or texted if you sign up for text alert) right to your inbox on Tuesday morning. Just click and sign with your name and address (that makes sure alerts get to the right state delegates and senators), then email, call, or Tweet. To get the action alerts via text: Text CATHOLIC to 443-764-8765.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ISSUES
IN OUR ADVOCACY DAY BRIEFING ROOM

  1. Support BOOST scholarship funding. BOOST scholarships are a matter of economic justice, empowering low-income Marylanders to have educational options, including Catholic schools. The proposed budget includes $10 million in BOOST funding, which will help alleviate the waiting list.

  2. Support perinatal hospice information. Perinatal hospice and palliative care give families who have received a life-limiting diagnosis for their child in utero the gift of time with their baby, helping them to process the diagnosis, welcome and say good-bye to their infant. This bill would ensure the state posts available resources online and in a printable brochure so it is easily available to parents.

  3. Support the Time to Care Act. This bill would establish an affordable insurance fund. Workers facing a new baby, serious illness, care needs for aging parents, or a military deployment could apply for modest benefits (up to 12 weeks) based on income.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ISSUES
IN OUR ADVOCACY DAY BRIEFING ROOM

Thank you for being part of Catholic Advocacy Day in Maryland.

See previews of Advocacy Day here: Catholic Standard | The Dialog


Pray for Our Elected Officials

Farmer Matt Jones and Friar Christopher, OFM Conv., are leading our prayer for elected officials this week. Located in Ellicott City (District 9), the Little Portion Farm at the Shrine of St. Anthony uses sustainable methods that respects and cares for the land. The produce harvested from the farm is donated to help people in need in Baltimore.

Click above to watch and listen 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

On Friday, the RELIEF Act (Recovery for the Economy, Livelihoods, Industries, Entrepreneurs, and Families) was passed by the House of Representatives. It already had been passed by the Senate and now is to Governor Hogan to sign into law. The RELIEF Act provides economic stimulus funds and tax relief designed to assist individuals and businesses impacted by COVID.

The Maryland Catholic Conference submitted testimony in support of the RELIEF Act. Conference testimony is posted online throughout the week. Scan the list and click to read testimony of interest. The individual testimony also includes a link to the General Assembly bill page so you can follow the bill.

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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.

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Catholic Voice Update | Feb. 2

It's Catholic Schools Week!

We have so much to be grateful for this year in our Catholic schools: the principals, teachers, staff, students, and families who have continued to excel and adapt despite a worldwide pandemic. This week is one of celebration for our 146 Catholic schools and early learning centers in Maryland, which together save the state $710 million each year.

Learn more about these great schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archdiocese of Washington, and Diocese of Wilmington.

Mother Mary Lange School

Mother Mary Lange School will be the first new Catholic school in Baltimore City in more than 60 years. Poised to be a community pillar west of Martin Luther King Boulevard, the school will open its doors to students next fall!

Though no students are on campus yet, this week is special for the school and its principal, Alisha Jordan. Feb. 3 is the feast day of Mother Mary Lange, a day that happens to fall within Black History Month. Mother Mary, one of several influential African-American Catholics from Maryland, was a Caribbean immigrant who overcame many odds to establish the first Catholic school for children of color in Baltimore in the early 19th century and to found the Oblate Sisters of Providence. Today she is a Servant of God, on the path to possible canonization.

The school anticipates as many as 100 of its initial students will be recipients of the Maryland State BOOST scholarship program. The program helps low-income Maryland families have the opportunity to send their children to a non-public school. Many students have been relying on the scholarships to attend two Catholic schools that will merge into Mother Mary Lange School.

This year, over 2,500 students, from 21 of Maryland’s 24 counties, received BOOST scholarships, but the wait list is long. The governor has proposed $10 million in BOOST funds in his budget this session. We are hopeful the General Assembly will continue to support and even expand this popular program.

Prayers for Elected Officials

In celebration of Catholic Schools Week, we invited students from St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Clinton, Md., to lead our prayer for elected officials, a weekly tradition during the legislative session.  

Located in District 25 (Prince George’s County), St. John’s has 212 students and has been educating with a hybrid approach this year, with in-person instruction three days each week. Thank you to Principal Ann Gillespie and our prayer leaders, Sophia Cuadra and Ninive Ramirez.

Click above for their prayer or visit our prayer page for the video and to read or download the prayer here (in English and Spanish).


Are you Ready for Catholic Advocacy Day?

Catholic Advocacy Day is just two weeks away! Mark Feb. 16 on your calendar in our one-day advocacy push with the General Assembly.

“Over 1,550 bills have been introduced so far between the House of Delegates and the Senate,” said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference, adding, “We expect more may be filed this week. The deadline to file is Feb. 5 in the House of Delegates and Feb. 8 in the Senate.”

“The Catholic Advocacy Day action alerts will focus on issues where we really need the support of parishioners and students with the delegates and senators. They are your representatives and a big turnout says that people are paying attention and really care about the issues,” she added.

Alerts will be prepared on education, respect for life, and social and economic justice. Members of the Catholic Advocacy Network will get them in their inboxes or via text, plus they will be posted at www.mdcatholic.org/advocacyday, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Please use our parish tool kit to invite friends, students and fellow parishioners! Thank you to everyone who has signed up for the Advocacy Network and please keep inviting others to do so, too.

Follow Our Testimony

We post our testimony before the General Assembly a couple of times each week. Follow the bills you are interested in here.


St. Bakhita, Patron of Human Trafficking Survivors

This week, during Black History Month, we are highlighting St. Josephine Bakhita, who is inspiring our work to end human trafficking in Maryland. Her feast day is on Feb. 8, which also is the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Trafficking.

Worldwide, 40 million people experience human trafficking. Sadly, Maryland is considered a hotspot for trafficking, making prevention and education one of our respect for life priorities.

St. Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of trafficking survivors because she herself was a survivor. She was born in Sudan in the 19th century. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a domestic worker. Her enslavers tortured and branded her, selling her multiple times. When one slaveholder brought her to Italy, the Cannossian sisters took her in and helped her fight for her freedom before a judge. She was educated by the sisters and later became a Cannossian sister herself, growing famous throughout Europe for courageously telling her story.

The Maryland Catholic Conference is supporting bills to educate students about human trafficking prevention, and to help hotels identify trafficking victims.

St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.


Maryland Tax News

If you received a stimulus check under either the March CARES Act or the December stimulus bill, those funds do not count as taxable income and will not impact your tax return. Also, please note that the tax filing date this year is back to April 15.

In addition, if you or someone you know is a lower-income taxpayer, there are some important programs to keep in mind – and some updates in light of COVID-19.

EITC and COVID-19

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) provides a tax break for low- to moderate-income workers. The December coronavirus relief package allows filers to use their 2019 earnings instead of 2020 to determine their eligibility, raising the total amount of refundable credits provided to lower-income earners.

Free tax assistance

A concern each year is unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of taxpayers by overcharging them – or charging them for services that they can get for free. The State of Maryland Comptroller’s Office would like Marylanders to know that any taxpayer earning under $57,000 per year is eligible for free tax preparation through CASH Campaign of Maryland (Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope).

Individuals making over $57,000 can submit their state tax returns for free (online or in person) on the Maryland Comptroller’s website. Maryland citizens also can email [email protected] for additional assistance or questions. 


Of Note

Thank you for praying for Most Reverend W. Francis Malooly, Bishop of Wilmington and former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore. The Dialog reports the bishop’s surgeon is “pleased” with the outcome of the cardiac bypass surgery. Recovery will take several weeks so please keep praying!

Feb. 2 is the 25th annual World Day for Consecrated Life and a great day to pray for and thank religious brothers, priests and sisters and all consecrated men and women for their vocation. If you are interested in exploring a religious vocation or know someone who may be, visit VocationMatch.com.

Pope Francis has established a World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, to be held on the 4th Sunday of July, which is July 25 this year.


JOIN THE CATHOLIC ADVOCACY NETWORK

The Catholic Advocacy Network gives you a voice on important issues in Maryland. Learn more and join our network.

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