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:
- Fund BOOST scholarships for low-income families
- Support making information on hospice care for newborn infants readily available
- Support the Time to Care Act (affordable insurance for paid family leave)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
Thank you for being part of Catholic Advocacy Day in Maryland.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
This week, the Meola Family of Bowie, Maryland, leads us in prayer for our elected officials. Both of their daughters joined the family through the gift of adoption and pray for our elected officials to embrace the gifts of adoption and life.
This week's prayer for our elected officials - we pray for them every Monday, holding them and their work in prayer - is led by Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Archbishop of Washington. The Archdiocese of Washington includes our nation's capital, as well as five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George's and St. Mary's.
As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day today, we do so with heavy hearts, yet also with hope.
The racism, strife, violence, and inequity that have marked our nation over the past year sadly show that we still are a nation divided. We have not yet achieved the promise of unity and peace envisioned by Rev. King and longed for by so many throughout our nation’s history.
More than 2,500 bills can be introduced in a legislative session. The staff of the Maryland Catholic Conference reviews and tracks them, and provides testimony on proposed legislation primarily related to respect for life, education, and social and economic justice. A list of bills on which the Conference has testified, with links to the testimony, are posted online throughout the session at www.mdcatholic.org/2021testimony.
Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference Board of Governors, spoke tonight on the death of former State Senate President Thomas V. Michael Miller:
“It is with great sadness that we learned the news of President Miller’s passing tonight. He was stalwart in living his life fully to the very end, and we pray that God that will bring him peace and bring comfort to his family.
“He leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of leadership, political acumen, and commitment to legislating through bipartisan cooperation in order to achieve the common good for the people of Maryland.
“As a Catholic community, we are deeply grateful for all he did for the Church and to champion the cause of educational options for all, especially low-income families in Baltimore City and throughout the state. He continued to love his family and serve his constituents to his very last days. May his example of courage and stamina be an inspiration to all of us for many years to come.”