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Maryland Catholic Conference testifies in support of Kirwin Commission recommendations

Only 50 days remain in the 2020 Maryland General Assembly Session, and on Monday, Feb. 17, lawmakers heard hours of testimony on one of the most anticipated bills: SB 1000/HB 1300 — known as The Blueprint for Maryland's Future, the bill that would implement the proposals from the Kirwin Commission. 

Officially known as the "Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education" but generally referred to as the Kirwin Commission in honor of its chairman William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the commission convened in 2016 with a goal to develop recommendations for how Maryland education is funded, operated and how it prepares students for college or the workforce. The commission offered its recommendations in 2019. 

Maryland's Catholic Bishops have supported the commission's recommendations and in January, Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the Maryland Catholic Conference, jointly penned with Baltimore City Public School's CEO Sonja Santelises an op-ed in The Baltimore Sun calling on Maryland lawmakers to pass the bill. 

"It is clear to all that the most pressing issue to be debated this session is the implementation of the recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, better known as the Kirwan Commission," they wrote in the article. "These reforms offer the promise of equitable and excellent educational opportunities for every student, regardless of their income or neighborhood." Read their full article HERE

Just some of the changes the bill would bring to Maryland's education system include:

  • Expand prekindergarten to all 4-year-olds and to 3-year-olds from low-income families
  • Allow more Catholic and other nonpublic schools to participate as sites for prekindergarten
  • Alter the requirements to become a teacher and raise teacher salaries
  • Expand full-day kindergarten
  • Establish a career counseling program for middle and high school students, and college and career readiness standards
  • Provide additional support to special education students and schools that serve low-income families
  • Ensure education dollars are properly utilized

 

The state would phase in any changes over 10 years. If fully implemented, the Blueprint is expected to cost the state an additional $4 billion annually.

The Conference offered testimony in support of the bill on Feb. 17, but suggested numerous amendments. To read our testimony CLICK HERE.

 

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Virtual Catholic Day of Action Toolkit Now Available

Virtual Catholic Day of Action is just around the corner and the Maryland Catholic Conference has put together a step-by-step toolkit to help you get involved on Feb. 19.

Complete with information about key issues, a guide for talking with legislators, direct links to actions, sample posts and emails to spread the word about Virtual Catholic Day of Action, and more, the toolkit is available now for those who plan to join in the action Feb. 19 or want more information on what the day is about.

You can access and start using the toolkit to prepare for Virtual Catholic Day of Action HERE.  

"We are excited to offer Virtual Catholic Day of Action as a way for even more Catholics from across Maryland to get involved and raise their voices on issues of life, education and human rights this legislative session, and we created this toolkit to ensure that everyone has the resources they need to be a voice for the common good," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Conference. "Not everyone was able to make the trek to Annapolis each year to speak up on these issues. This is why we've set aside Feb. 19 as a day when everyone in Maryland can join together to call and write their legislators."

The Conference will be highlighting three main issues for Catholic Day of Action: physician-assisted suicide, the BOOST Scholarship Program and paid family leave (Time to Care Act). Visit the toolkit to more information about each of these important issues. 

To stay up-to-date on many issues the Conference has already taken a position on this session, visit our testimony page HERE

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Senate Hearing on Physician-Assisted Suicide Scheduled for Feb. 28

The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee will hear testimony on the 2020 bill to legalize physician-assisted suicide (SB 701) on Friday, Feb. 28, at 12 noon. A hearing has not yet been scheduled on the House version of the bill, HB 643. 

The Senate hearing will be held in the Judicial Proceedings hearing room on the second floor of the Miller Senate Office Building at 11 Bladen Street, Annapolis. 

For the fifth time in six years, proponents are pushing to legalize the dangerous practice of physician-assisted suicide in Maryland and have returned with the same deeply flawed policy that the General Assembly has rejected year after year. 

The Maryland Catholic Conference welcomes anyone who wants to attend the hearing in opposition to this dangerous bill to join us on Feb. 28. We will be gathering at our office around 11 a.m. and walking to the hearing. Parking is available in downtown Annapolis. For more information on where to park downtown, please visit: www.annapolisparking.com/parking-locations/ 

If you plan to attend, please email Kate Alexander, Director of Communications and Engagement, by Thursday, Feb. 27 at kalexander@mdcatholic.org. Those who attend are encouraged to wear green to show opposition to the bill. 

The Maryland Catholic Conference has joined with other faith leaders, disability rights advocates and the medical community in the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide Coalition to oppose the bill. To learn more and join the Coalition, visit www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org

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Maryland Catholic Conference to support immigration bills

The Maryland Catholic Conference will again support legislation that seeks to protect immigrants and their families by building trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement.

Several bills that address the interactions between immigrants and law enforcement have been introduced during the 2020 session, and the Conference will support the bills that uphold the inherent dignity of every person and oppose those that seek to tear families apart. 

"Immigration is largely a federal issue, and a very difficult one, but there are areas where our state can take action," said Anne Wallerstedt, associate director of social and economic justice for he Maryland Catholic Conference. "We as a Conference, support legislation that upholds the inherent human dignity of each person and are guided by the words of Pope Francis who said that: '[I]f we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us give opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.'

The Catholic Church has historically held a strong interest in immigration and how public policy affects immigrants seeking a new life in the United States. A person and their family shouldn’t have to live in fear from the very entities who are tasked with keeping every person safe and healthy and helping our communities thrive. Unfortunately, when local and state law enforcement are requested to take part in immigration enforcement, it causes an erosion of their critical relationship with immigrant communities. When immigrant communities do not feel comfortable interacting with police — even to report crimes — then whole communities are less safe as crimes go unreported and/or unsolved. The Conference supports bills that balance the needs for both public safety and immigration enforcement in order to make families and communities safer.  

To read MCC's testimony during the 2020 session CLICK HERE.

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Learn more about what we do! Come to one of several presentations we are giving this month

Learn more about the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference by coming to one of the several presentations in the month of February that our staff are giving at parishes and locations across the state. These presentations range from information about the Conference and what we do, to presentations on physician-assisted suicide, faithful citizenship and life issues.

WHAT: An afternoon with the Maryland Catholic Conference. 

WHERE: St. Joan of Arc, 222 Law Street, Aberdeen, MD

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020 at 12:30 p.m.

INFO: Learn about the work of the Maryland Catholic Conference and how you can get more involved. For more information contact Deacon Ray Van Pelt at rvanpelt@stjoanarc.org or call 410-272-4535, ext. 111


WHAT: The Difference of Hope: A presentation on the reality of physician-assisted suicide and how you can help defend life

WHERE: St. John Neumann, 9000 Warfield Road, Gaithersburg, MD

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

INFO: The evening will be valuable for all those interested in learning more about physician-assisted suicide, its impact on the dignity of life, and how Catholics can help defend Maryland against this dangerous practice. MCC will present jointly with the Archdiocese of Washington. For more information, contact Tony Bosnick at abosnick@sfadw.org.


WHAT: Faithful Citizenship for a new generation: How young adults can be a voice for their faith, justice and human rights. 

WHERE: Saints Row Brewing, 1211-1213 Taft Street, Rockville, MD

WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

INFO: A presentation to 270 Catholic's February Theology on Tap. For more information visit: www.270catholic.org.  


WHAT: Maryland Catholic Conference legislative update at 40 Days for Life Rally

WHERE: St. Mary of the Mills, 114 St. Marys Place, Laurel, MD. Event will be held in the Wilson Room of the Keesler Parish Center.

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 22 from 2 to 4 p.m. (presentation around 3:15 p.m.)

INFO: Hosted by 40 Days for Life of College Park. For more information contact Mike Turek at 301-518- 8920.

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Physician-Assisted Suicide bill introduced again

For the fifth time in six years, proponents of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) have again introduced a bill (HB 643 / SB 701) to legalize the dangerous practice in Maryland. 

Last year, the PAS bill was narrowly defeated when it died in the Maryland Senate by way of a tie vote. Before defeating the bill on the floor, members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee amended the bill, attempting to fix many of its serious flaws.

The Maryland Catholic Conference and our allies in the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide Coalition strongly believe that no amendments can make this bill acceptable for Maryland. However, proponents rejected changes made to the bill in 2019, and have introduced the same deeply flawed and predatory bill that our state has rightly rejected each time it's been introduced.

"The groups pushing to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Maryland are woefully out of touch with the people and leaders of our state, who have repeatedly rejected their agenda," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We are grateful to everyone in our Catholic Advocacy Network, who together sent more than 10,000 messages last year against physician-assisted suicide, and helped defeat this bill, but we need your help again this year."

Early signals show the Maryland Senate still remains opposed to the bill, but that doesn't mean the Conference's work is done. The flaws in this bill remain numerous and it continues to lacks any actual protection for vulnerable persons. 

If you stand with us against this bill, please consider joining the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide (MAPAS) coalition for the most recent information on the bill. 

CLICK HERE to join MAPAS.

 

 

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BOOST VIDEO SHARES HOW PROGRAM IS HELPING STUDENTS SUCCEED

On Jan. 29, the Maryland BOOST Scholarship Coalition — of which Maryland Catholic Conference is a member — released a video sharing the stories of numerous BOOST scholarship recipient families, who, thanks to the program, have seen their children thrive in school. 

Since it was enacted in 2016, the Maryland BOOST Scholarship Program has empowered low-income families to choose the best educational option for their children. BOOST has made Maryland a pioneer in narrowing the achievement gap for low-income students and has proven to help those students academically. 

In the video, parents and students share how being a part of the BOOST Scholarship Program has enabled them to choose Catholic or other nonpublic education and how that has helped their children succeed in school. 

Watch the video below. 

The BOOST Scholarship Program is benefitting thousands of Maryland students, more than half of whom are people of color.

For the 2019-2020 school year, even more families than ever applied for a scholarship and 3,900 were certified as eligible to receive a scholarship.

However, more than 400 eligible students still remain on a waitlist to receive a scholarship.

Last year, the state legislature apportioned nearly $7.5 million for scholarships for the current school year, but demand was even greater. For the upcoming school year, Governor Larry Hogan has proposed to increase funding for BOOST to $10 million. The state budget, now in the hands of the General Assembly, must pass both chambers of the legislature by March 30.

To learn more about BOOST visit www.marylandboost.org.

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Discover and Celebrate Catholic Schools Week

For more than 40 years, Catholics schools across the United States have set aside the last week of January to celebrate Catholic Schools Week. This year, the celebration starts Sunday, Jan. 26 and runs through Feb. 1.

First held in 1974, National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2020 is “Discover and Celebrate” with additional daily themes for each day of the week. 

"For Marylanders, Catholic Schools Week is a yearly reminder of the vital role Catholic education plays in the lives of nearly 50,000 students and their families in our state," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "We hear year round from families who share with us the positive difference Catholic school has made for their children, both academically and personally. That is why we at the Conference work during our 90-day session to ensure that Marylanders are empowered to choose Catholic or other nonpublic schools for their children."

According to the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA), schools across the country will observe the annual celebration with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. This school year, the NCEA — which organizes the annual celebration — created a new event in connection with Catholic Schools Week, "Discover Catholic Schools Week." Discover Catholic Schools Week was held in November 2019 and schools were encouraged to spend that week connecting with prospective families, donors and other community members to share about their school. 

To learn more about Catholic Schools Week, visit: www.ncea.org/csw

 

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The Catholic Impact: How Maryland Catholics are making a difference in our state

Maryland is home to more than one million Catholics who work to transform lives every day through parishes, schools, social services, homeless services, senior care, medical care and more. 

"Catholics across Maryland live out their faith every day by serving others, helping to build community, and working to make our state a wonderful place to live," said Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Whether it is helping a family in need of rent assistance, medical care, or housing; or running a program like Safe Streets in Baltimore, Maryland Catholics are making an impact."

To share the great work happening across Maryland, the Maryland Catholic Conference created a Catholic Impact statement for each state legislative district. Each Impact details the many ways Catholics are transforming lives in their communities and are available to download from our website.

To download the Catholic Impact for your legislative district, CLICK HERE

 

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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, Jan. 20 is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and there will be numerous events in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Archdiocese of Washington to commemorate the life of Dr. King and his legacy. 

Baltimore

Friday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

St. Ignatius Catholic Community in Baltimore will screen the movie "Selma." For more information CLICK HERE.

Saturday, Jan. 18 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

St. Ignatius Catholic Community in Baltimore will host a day-retreat for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance titled "Non-Violence: The Weapon that Heals." For more information CLICK HERE.

Sunday, Jan. 19 after the 10:30 a.m. mass

St. Ignatius Catholic Community in Baltimore will re-dedicate the St. Peter Claver chapel and a new image of the saint as part of the parish's work to atone for the sin of racism that was part of the parish's past. To learn more about this dedication CLICK HERE.

Monday, Jan. 20 at noon  

Bishop Madden will host a Prayer Walk in Baltimore. The event will begin with a gathering at St. Bernardine at 3812 Edmondson Avenue, Baltimore.

Please note that this walk will be during the day at a different time than usual because of the national holiday. There will be a lite meal and fellowship after the walk in Harcum Hall.

To reach the parish call 410-362-8664.

Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.

Loyola University in Baltimore will host its 27th Annual MLK Convocation in the Reitz Arena. For more information on the event CLICK HERE. 

Washington

The Archdiocese of Washington will host its Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church (3800 Ely Place S.E. Washington, D.C.) on Saturday, January 18.

All are invited to attend. Praise and worship will begin at 3:30 pm featuring the Archdiocese of Washington’s Gospel Mass Choir. Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory, the first African American archbishop, will begin at 4:00 pm. For more information CLICK HERE.

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