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Maryland Catholic Conference joins coalition partners to again oppose physician-assisted suicide

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For the fourth time in 5 years, the Oregon-based special interest group Compassion and Choices is pushing to legalize physician-assisted suicide (PAS) in Maryland and the Maryland Catholic Conference is joining with its coalition partners to strongly oppose the legislation.

"Our state has repeatedly rejected this group’s agenda and with good reason: assisted-suicide threatens Maryland’s most vulnerable, putting those with disabilities, the elderly, our veterans, and those battling prescription drug addiction at grave risk," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "As Catholics we stand firm with our partners across the state to strongly oppose this legislation."

Titled the "End-of-Life Option Act" (HB 399/SB 311), the bill was introduced this week in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly and is nearly identical to legislation rejected in 2015, 2016 and 2017 by Maryland lawmakers. Hearings have been scheduled for Friday, February 15 at 1 p.m. in the House and Tuesday, February 19 at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate. 

The Conference is a long-time member of the Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide (MAPAS) Coalition. 

"We encourage everyone who is passionate about this issue to join the MAPAS coalition, sign up for alerts and follow the coalition on social media to stay up-to-date on action on this bill," said Jennifer. "The coalition is the best resource for information on the fight against PAS and the primary voice in Maryland in opposing this predatory practice."

To learn more about Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide, sign-up for alerts and get involved, visit: www.stopassistedsuicidemd.org

Read news coverage of the introduction and the Conference's strong opposition HERE

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Sisters in Silver Spring work to end human trafficking

When Catholic leaders in Rome put out a worldwide call in 2000 to all religious communities to address the growing global scourge of human trafficking, the Sisters of the Holy Name of Jesus and Mary took the call to heart.

At the time, human trafficking ranked among the world’s most profitable illegal trades, behind arms and drug trafficking. Today, it still ranks among the most profitable illegal trades, and is considered the fastest growing illegal enterprise worldwide, according to Forbes magazine.  

Human trafficking is the business of stealing freedom for profit, according to the Polaris Project, a U.S.-based organization that works to disrupt human trafficking networks. Trafficking involves using force, fraud or coercion to make victims engage in commercial sex or to work in inhumane, illegal or otherwise unacceptable conditions. In total, Polaris has identified 25 unique business models of human trafficking.  

Learning all they could about human trafficking, a local community of the Sisters gathered in the early 2000s at their home in Silver Spring, Md. to discuss what they could do locally to heed this call.

Sr. Carroll Ann Kemp suggested forming a coalition to involve women from other religious communities in their work against human trafficking. And more than 15 years ago, the Mid-Atlantic Coalition Against Modern Slavery — or MACAMS as it is more commonly known — was born. Today, the coalition has dozens of members from various faiths and is active in the Maryland-Washington, D.C. region.

The work of MACAMS focuses on combatting human trafficking through public education, advocacy, support of organizations that provide direct service to victims, and prayer, said Sr. Carol Ries, a leader of the group.

While MACAMS has hosted numerous information sessions on trafficking across the region and participated in many conferences and forums, perhaps the most public work of MACAMS is their prayer every other month on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring.

“We just pray silently,” said Kemp, coordinator of MACAMS. “We’re not putting brochures in people’s faces. We have little cards from the Blue Campaign telling the signs of someone being trafficked, but we wait until we’re asked for one to give it out.” The Blue Campaign is an effort by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its partners to combat human trafficking.


Members of MACAMS stand on the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring, Md. every other month to witness and pray for the end of human trafficking.


 

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Catholic Schools Week starts Jan. 27

Starting Sunday, Catholics schools across the Maryland and the United States will observe Catholic Schools Week.

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 2019 is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, with daily themes for each day.

According to the National Catholic Education Association, schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.  

"Catholic Schools Week is an annual reminder of the important role Catholic education plays in the lives of Maryland children and our communities," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. "Nearly 50,000 Maryland children learn every day in Catholic schools and that's why the Conference works diligently to ensure that their schools are supported and that families, whether Catholic or not, able to choose Catholic education."

Each year, the Conference partners with Maryland CAPE (Council of American Private Education) to welcome more than 1,000 Maryland nonpublic school students to Annapolis to advocate for BOOST scholarships and other aid. This year the Nonpublic Schools Advocacy Day will be held on March 12. To register your school, visit: www.educationmaryland.org/advocacyday

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Catch the bus to Catholics in Annapolis

Need a ride to Catholics in Annapolis on February 21? Take the bus! 

The Maryland Catholic Conference will be chartering buses from regions across the state to make it easier for everyone to come and join us for Catholics in Annapolis.

Buses will be available from the following regions:

  • Hagerstown (with stops in Middletown and Frederick)
  • Waldorf
  • Westminster
  • Rockville
  • Abingdon 
  • Clarksville
  • College Park (with a stop in Bowie)
  • Salisbury
  • Baltimore City

 

"We want to make it as easy as possible to join us in Annapolis on February 21 to advocate for life, justice and human rights," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference. "We know that driving to and from Annapolis in February can be a challenge and that parking here can be difficult. We encourage anyone who wants a ride to sign up ASAP!"

To reserve your seat on the bus nearest you, visit: www.catholicsinannapolis.org/buses

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EITC Awareness Day Highlights Important Anti-Poverty Program

The Maryland Catholic Conference joined with advocates across the state on Jan. 25, 2019 to spread awareness of the state's recently-expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 

The EITC is a federal and state program that provides qualifying working individuals and families with a credit on their federal and state taxes. In Maryland, it provides qualifying individuals with a credit on their state taxes of up to 50 percent of their federal tax credit. 

"EITC is one of the anti-poverty programs that we know works," said Anne Zmuda Wallerstedt, associate director of Social and Economic Justice for the Conference. "The program puts money — and for some, a significant amount — directly back into the pockets of hard-working Marylanders."

The Conference has been a long-time supporter of efforts to expand the EITC to enable more Marylanders to qualify. In the 2018 legislative session, Maryland's General Assembly voted to expand the credit to an estimated additional 40,000 individuals by lowering the age to qualify from 21 to 18. The change took effect on July 1, 2018. 

As a founding member of the Maryland Alliance for the Poor, the Conference continues to support in the current legislative session efforts to further expand the EITC. Limitations that remain in the current state program prevent many single adults from qualifying for the credit. Advocates have been working on legislation to expand the state EITC to match 100 percent of the federal credit and increase the maximum income allowed for single individuals to qualify. 

To learn more about the EITC and if you might qualify CLICK HERE

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Gregory Snyder joins MCC Team

Gregory Snyder II, a former legislative staffer to two Maryland State Senators has joined the Maryland Catholic Conference as Associate Director of Communications and Engagement. 

"We are so excited and blessed to have Greg on board," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference. "Greg is not just a talented and motivated member of our team, but he brings to our work his incredible network of contacts in Maryland Government."

Prior to joining the Conference, Greg worked as a Legislative Aide for Senator Justin Ready (R-5), followed by serving as Chief of Staff for Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R-6). Most recently, he served in the Hogan Administration at the Office of Governmental Affairs at the Maryland Transit Administration.  

Greg is a life-long Catholic who grew up in Reisterstown, MD, attending Sacred Heart School of Glyndon and Calvert Hall. He received a B.A. in Political Science from Roanoke College in Salem, VA. 

While Greg only began his work with the Conference in January, he has been involved in Catholic Advocacy for years, getting his start by attending Nonpublic Schools Advocacy Day as a student at Sacred Heart. 

Greg will take over much of the Conference's engagement work, including growing the network of Parish Legislative Ambassadors.

Read Greg's full bio HERE

 

 

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MCC Marches for Life

  

Maryland Catholic Conference staff joined with thousands of pro-life advocates from across the United States in Washington D.C. today for the March for Life.

“Life is at the heart of every issue we address as the Conference, so it’s only fitting that we be here today, in our nation’s capital, marching for life,” said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference.

The first March for Life was held in 1974 and drew an estimated 20,000 supporters. The March today is the world’s largest pro-life event and draws hundreds of thousands of people.

“There is an energy, an electricity on these streets,” said Therese M. Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life. “It is powerful to be here surrounded by thousands of others standing up for life and marching to the doors of our Supreme Court. We stand up for life every day in the work we do in Maryland. This is just a wonderful chance for us to stand with others.”

Maryland will hold its March for Life on March 4 in Annapolis. To learn more about the march CLICK HERE.

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Are you registered for Catholics in Annapolis?

 

 

Catholics in Annapolis is just 33 days away. Are you registered?

This year’s event will include praying the Rosary for our public officials, meeting with elected representatives and will focus on many important issues of life, justice and human rights.

We need your voice in Annapolis!

Catholics in Annapolis event is filling up quickly. Register now to reserve your spot.

Visit www.catholicsinannapolis.orgto register today!

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2019 testimony available online

During the upcoming legislative session, the Maryland Catholic Conference will weigh in on dozens of issues and take positions on issues of importance to Maryland Catholics.

All Conference testimony submitted in the 2019 session in support or opposition of a bill, as well as testimony offered in neutrality, will be available on the Conference’s website.

To access the latest testimony, visit www.mdcatholic.org/2019testimony

The page is updated on an ongoing basis as testimony is submitted. Be sure to check the 2019 Testimony page often throughout the session for the latest updates.

To stay up-to-date and get engaged on key issues, be sure to join the Catholic Advocacy Network. Click HERE to join.

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Hogan inaugurated to second term, proposes budget that increases BOOST funding

Governor Hogan (center) poses with students at the 2017 Nonpublic Schools Advocacy Day

Governor Larry J. Hogan (R) officially took office for a second term this week, kicking off four more years at the helm in Annapolis and a busy 2019 legislative session.

Hogan introduced his official Fiscal Year 2020 budget today, and with it, a proposed increase of $3 million in funding for the BOOST Scholarship program to $10 million, fulfilling the governor’s commitment to double funding for the program over three years. His budget also includes an additional $3.5 million for school safety improvements at nonpublic schools. 

“Governor Hogan has proved to be very responsive to the needs and concerns of the Catholic community as well as other faith communities that we often work with on issues of mutual interest,” said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference. “Governor Hogan has also been a strong supporter of Catholic schools, and has been instrumental in the growth of the BOOST scholarship program, which has changed the lives of countless families by providing students the financial opportunity to attend a non-public school.”

Since passing the BOOST scholarship program in 2016, Maryland has gradually increased the allocation for scholarships. This past year, a total of $7.6 million was available for scholarships, with a portion specifically for scholarship for students with disabilities. Since it’s passage in 2016, the Maryland Catholic Conference has been working closely with the Governor’s office to ensure more families are able to participate in BOOST.

“The funding put in the state budget each year for BOOST has enabled thousands of Maryland families who would not otherwise be able to afford it, to choose the educational option best suited for their children,” said Garrett J. O’Day, deputy director of the Conference. “We are grateful for Governor Hogan’s continued support of this program, look forward to his budget and working with our state lawmakers to continue this important program.”

Also expected in the coming days is final data on the BOOST Scholarship awards for the current fiscal 2018-2019 school year.

As the state gathers the final numbers on BOOST, a recent poll shows that, nationally, support for school choice is on the rise. BOOST enables low-income families to choose educational options that they otherwise might not be able to afford. Read more about the poll HERE.

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