A group of Catholics from the Westminster, Md. area pose outside the Miller Senate Office Building on Feb. 21.
photo credit: Fr. Mark Bialek, pastor of St. John Roman Catholic Church in Westminster (used with permission).
More than 400 Catholics from across Maryland packed the Miller Senate Office building in Annapolis on Thursday for the Maryland Catholic Conference's annual Catholics in Annapolis event.
"We are humbled and grateful for how many people came from all corners of our state this year to Catholics in Annapolis," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference. "Your voices truly are the most powerful ones in Annapolis and we thank you for lifting them up in prayer and in defense of life, justice and human rights."
Security lines stretched out the door and around the block to enter the Senate building. Inside, it was standing room only for the Rosary — led by Bishop Francis Malooly and Msgr. Steven Hurley of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington — and to listen to speakers personally affected by the many issues being considered by the legislature — a new addition for 2019.
When asked by Conference Deputy Director Garrett O'Day how many people were at the event for the first time, more than half of the hands in the room went up. Many made their way to Annapolis by taking one of the seven buses provided by the Conference from regions across the state, thanks to the generous support of the Maryland State Council of the Knights of Columbus.
The heart of Catholics in Annapolis, now in its 35th year, is the time when those who attend meet personally with their legislators or their staff to advocate for important issues. MCC staff, interns and volunteers worked throughout January and February to ensure that every district represented on Feb. 21 met with at least one member or representative of their delegation.
"There are a lot of important issues our legislators are considering this year — from a proposed pro-abortion amendment to our state constitution and physician-assisted suicide, to stronger fetal homicide laws, human trafficking, and funding for BOOST scholarships," O'Day said. "Last night, those legislators heard from not a few, but hundreds of their constituents on these issues. And many for the first time. The impact of that is immeasurable."
The evening ended with a reception, catered by the Light House Bistro Catering in Annapolis, a program of The Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center that provides persons experiencing barriers to employment with hands-on training and experience in the food service industry. And the famous Cardinal Shehan Choir returned to again share their talents. The choir, which traveled from Baltimore City, had the entire room rocking and dancing as they sang.
Catholics in Annapolis happens each February in Annapolis. To keep up to date on the progress of the issues from Catholics in Annapolis, sign up for alerts. CLICK HERE to join the Catholic Advocacy Network.
For more than 15 years, John and Cathy Stefano have been organizing parishioners from St. Louis in Clarksville to attend Catholics in Annapolis and other important events each legislative session, in some years bringing multiple busloads to Annapolis to meet with their legislators.
Their grassroots efforts have involved dozens of Marylanders in the legislative process over the past decade. But its knowing that the work they are doing is for a greater good that keeps the octogenarian couple from Columbia, Md. going.
In her wallet, Cathy carries two quotations to remind her why, at 80 years young, she is still doing grassroots political work.
“’The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing,’” she said, reading the words of Edmund Burke.
“We say it this way:” she continued. “Evil exists because good men and women are silent.”
Each general assembly session, legislators in Maryland gather for 90 days to actively address pressing concerns in our state and they encourage their constituents to get involved.
Her other quotation is from Mother Teresa: “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.”
Cathy said she saw first-hand the apathy among voters and how few people speak up on important legislation when she worked as an aide in the office of a former delegate.
“She came home one day and said: ‘John, I don’t know why I’m going down there. I’m out of my mind,’” John said.
God, however, said something different. Cathy said she felt God tell her one day in Mass, as she contemplated leaving her job, to stay and to learn. So she did. For 5 more years, she learned all she could and now uses her knowledge to engage others in grassroots advocacy.
Cathy and John Stefano
We are less than 1 week away from Catholics in Annapolis, your annual chance to engage lawmakers for your Catholic faith! Thank you to everyone who has registered and reserved a seat on a bus. If you are planning to attend and have not registered PLEASE do so today!
Visit www.catholicsinannapolis.org to register!
We are excited that we will have the Cardinal Shehan Choir with us again this year to share their incredible talent during our reception.
Just a reminder that we will start this year's event by praying the Rosary at 3 p.m. We encourage each of you to join us for this prayer. If you have a rosary, please bring it along.
"For those who cannot be with us in Annapolis in person, we encourage you to take time at 3 p.m. on Feb. 21 to join us in prayer from wherever you are by praying the Rosary for our elected officials," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We know there is power in prayer and we hope everyone can join us on Thursday and lift up our state through prayer."
Before you head to Annapolis on Thursday, be sure to check out the videos below to learn about our key issues this session.
If you have not yet registered, do so today. Seats are filling fast! Visit www.catholicsinannapolis.org to register.
Dozens of opponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) wearing black with green stickers declaring "NO assisted suicide" packed into the joint hearing room on Friday to demonstrate the strong and growing opposition to making assisted suicide an option in Maryland.
It was standing room only in the joint hearing room where together the House Health & Government Operations Committee and the Judiciary Committee listened to testimony for hours.
The hearing, which began at 1:30 p.m., continued until well into the evening as dozens of individuals and representatives of organizations across Maryland were heard both for and against the bill.
"Looking around the hearing room today, it is clear that more and more Marylanders do not support this dangerous practice," said Therese Hessler, associate director with the Maryland Catholic Conference. "This demonstrates the truth we know: that when people learn about this dangerous bill and what it actually does, they do not support it passing in Maryland."
To join with those speaking out against the bill and tell your delegates to OPPOSE physician-assisted suicide, CLICK HERE.
Maryland's Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee is scheduled to hear the bill on Tuesday, February 19 at 12 noon. Those who wish to attend in opposition can email firstname.lastname@example.org and are reminded to wear black.
Like many couples, when Bethany and Daniel Meola said “I do,” both hoped that together they would one day add to their family.
“We wanted to have children,” Bethany said. “But we figured out, as time went on, that wasn’t happening.”
It became clear to the Bowie couple after several years of trying to conceive that their plan for a family and God’s plan were quite different.
Like many Catholics, both Bethany and Daniel had grown up in families with adopted members, so when the couple was unable to conceive, they turned to adoption as a way to have a family of their own.
Adoption in the United States, and in Maryland, is not a quick, easy or affordable process. In fact, the barriers and hurdles to adoption can put it out of reach for many Maryland families.
According to Show Hope — a faith-based movement to remove the barriers to adoption through education and grants — out of every 500 families that consider adoption, only 1 will actually adopt a child, and the high cost of adoption is a primary obstacle. Show Hope advises that adoptions can cost between $20,000 and $40,000.
For the Meolas, it took more than 2 years and cost roughly $50,000 to welcome their daughter Zelie-Louise Meola into their lives, however the couple was able to recoup some of that cost through the adoption tax credit, a federal program aimed at easing the cost of adoption.
“There was definitely some sticker shock when we realized what it would cost,” Bethany said. However, she said the cost of adoption doesn’t just cover the administration provided by the state and the adoption agency, but also helps provide care for the birth parents, as well as education and outreach about adoption.
Bethany described the process of adopting like an emotional roller coaster, with ups and down and twists and turns. From being considered as the family for several children only to ultimately not be picked, to the exhaustive and detailed process to just apply and be approved for adoption, to having to travel across the country to finally meet their daughter, Bethany said hers and her husband’s eyes opened to the challenges that surround adoption. The process also deepened their relationship, bringing them closer together as a couple through the shared experience.
“It takes vulnerability to adopt,” Bethany said. “You have to be willing to let your life be examined in detail, in a way that you would not normally allow.”
To be approved to adopt, a family must complete a home study. This study can take months to complete — for the Meolas, it took 6 months — and required submitting financial documents, health records, employment records, driving records and more, as well as writing a detailed autobiography of their relationship, from how they met to their decision to adopt.
Once approved to adopt, the Meolas had to wait to be matched with a child and then wait to be ultimately chosen as the adoptive parents.
“It’s the expectant parents who do the choosing,” she said. “For us, as Christians, we believe in God’s providence, that if he had a child in mind for our family, that he would bring us together.”
And God did. After a long wait for their child, on April 6, 2017 they welcomed Zelie-Louise Meola into their lives and hearts.
The Meola Family.
For many, winter can be a particularly difficult time of year. To help those in the Annapolis community who struggle to stay warm, the Maryland Catholic Conference has been collecting clean, new and gently used coats as part of a drive it is calling Coats Until Crossover.
Crossover is a deadline in Maryland when all bills must pass out of the originating chamber and crossover to the opposite chamber. This session, Crossover is March 18. From now until Crossover, the Conference has a blue box on its porch where it will collect coats.
"Whether you are tidying up or refreshing your wardrobe, please consider donating your coats and help bring joy to those who struggle to stay warm, " said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference.
All coats will be donated to the Arundel House of Hope on a rolling basis.
Don't forget that Spring often requires a lighter-weight jacket to stay comfortable. Clean coats and jackets of all weights are welcome.
Next week Maryland's House committee will hear testimony on the latest effort by out-of-state interests to pass physician-assisted suicide in Maryland. Together with the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide coalition, the Maryland Catholic Conference is asking anyone who wants to stand against this bill to show their opposition by wearing all black and attending the hearing in Annapolis on February 15.
"We choose black because it cuts to the heart of what this bill does: it legalizes assisted suicide by being prescribed a lethal fatal cocktail from a doctor or a physician; substantiating the dark and sober reality of taking ones own life," said Therese Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life at the Conference.
The House Health and Government Operations Committee will hear the bill (HB 399) on Friday, February 15 at 1:30 p.m. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear the bill (SB 311) on Tuesday, February 19 at 1:30 p.m.
If you are interested in attending the hearing in Annapolis on Feb. 15 to show your opposition to physician-assisted suicide, please contact the Conference by emailing email@example.com.
To stay up to date with the latest news on the effort to keep assisted suicide out of Maryland be sure to follow the coalition!
On twitter @stopPASMaryland
On Facebook @marylandagainstPAS
Or visit the coalition website at: www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org
Thank you to everyone who has registered so far for Catholics in Annapolis on February 21! We look forward to having you all join us to advocate on behalf of the Church in Maryland.
To help you prepare for Catholics in Annapolis, each year, the Conference produces short videos on the key issues we are asking you to advocate on when you come to Annapolis.
Check out the 2019 issue videos below!
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch on Friday made good on his promise to introduce legislation that would put to the voters in 2020 a proposed amendment to Maryland's constitution that would enshrine the so-called "right" to an abortion.
However, as of late Friday, the bill (HB 1031) did not have any available language so it is unclear exactly what the bill would do or how far it would go.
“The introduction of legislation establishing a woman’s “right” to abortion by way of a Maryland constitutional amendment on the 2020 ballot should be of great concern to both Maryland lawmakers and to all Marylanders," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "The introduction of this proposal follows the national agenda of the pro-abortion lobby that is also playing out in New Mexico, The Commonwealth of Virginia, and New York, which recently passed a law allowing abortion up to the time of the child’s birth."
The Conference took a stand against the concept of the amendment in August and, with only 60 days remaining in the legislative session, the Conference will work tirelessly to keep abortion out of our state constitution.
Stopping the bill in the general assembly is vital said Therese Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life for the Conference. If the bill passes and is affirmed by the voters, it would effectively prevent any future common-sense regulations on abortion or protections of life in Maryland, she said.
The Conference is asking all Catholics who want to speak up against this bill to join us on February 21 at Catholics in Annapolis. That evening you can meet face-to-face with your elected lawmakers and tell them the dangers of this bill and urge them to vote against it.