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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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The Pro-Life Generation: How one Montgomery County teacher is showing teens that Life is more complex than left or right

Tom Kolar, Religious Studies teacher at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School, Olney, Md.

 

If Tom Kolar was not teaching religious studies and coordinating the Students for Life group at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School in Olney, Md., the passionate pro-life advocate would be working somewhere in the movement.  

“What keeps me going, what I think keeps any pro-life advocate going, is thinking about the actual children who are in the world now because of the work you do,” he said.

Kolar’s own religious studies as a teen played an important role in his faith formation and pro-life values, sparking in him a desire to pass both onto others.

“This is a cause I feel passionately about,” he said. “Being involved in the student club gives me the opportunity to do advocacy work and be part of the pro-life cause. This is the best way I can be involved in the overall movement.”

Kolar said he constantly meets young pro-life students who are committed to ending abortion and fighting for life. Their teenage passion and enthusiasm, he said, is generally unencumbered by the “stuff” adults allow to limit their time and energy to engage.

But what stops the teens from getting involved is a lack of knowledge of how to engage as well as underestimating the power they have to bring about change. While recent political movements led by teens from across the country have shown America’s youth that they too can make a difference, Kolar said he finds many still feel that until they are able to vote, there is little if anything they can do but rail against the injustices they encounter.

“I tell them, ‘You may be 14 years-old but you can be doing things,’” he said.

To provide students with opportunities to get active, Kolar regularly schedules speakers to talk to the club, often offering students service hours for attending.

“This [role] puts me in a position where I can share the wisdom I have with them and can hopefully help to solidify that belief into action,” he said. “Teens, in my experience, when they are passionate about something, are passionate about it in such a serious way that they can find that energy and find that time much more easily. As long as they get advice on how to channel that passion, they can be extraordinarily effective in political advocacy.”

He also organizes a Youth Life Conference — a one-day event for students that features workshops on life issues, an exhibitor hall and mass — and coordinates an annual drive to collect supplies for area pregnancy centers – an event he said is aimed at being a living witness that pro-life advocacy doesn’t end at birth, but also includes helping women facing crisis pregnancies.

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Maryland General Assembly Session Begins

The 439th session of the Maryland General Assembly got underway on Wednesday, January 9. The session will last for 90 days, concluding on April 8. 

The Maryland Catholic Conference staff will pursue numerous issues during the next 90 days, including issues of life, education, justice, and human rights.

Nearly 1/3 of the legislators who took the oath of office on Wednesday are new and the Conference has been working diligently to meet with and get to know the new members and leadership. 

"We expect this to be an extremely busy legislative session for Maryland," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director for the Conference. "We welcome each legislator to Annapolis and look forward to a productive 90 days as we work to protect the vulnerable in our state: the poor, the unborn, immigrant communities, the elderly, persons with disability, the incarcerated, the sick, and victims of violence and trafficking." 

To read more about the Conference's top priorities heading into the session, visit the Catholic Review and the Catholic Standard

To stay up-to-date on the Conference's work throughout the session, be sure to register for the Catholic Advocacy Network.

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MCC Welcomes Session Interns

The Maryland Catholic Conference is pleased to welcome Patrick Hogan (left) and Cindy Tchuenkam (right) to our team as our 2019 session interns.

Both Cindy and Patrick are seniors at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD.

Patrick, a native of Pennsylvania, is majoring in Political Science. Cindy, who grew up in Cameroon, West Africa and moved to Maryland in 2008, is also a Political Science major. 

"We are excited to have Cindy and Patrick joining us in Annapolis for the session," said Garrett J. O'Day, deputy director of the Conference. "Our interns are invaluable members of our team during these busy 90 days, and we are looking forward to working with both of them." 

Each year the Conference offers internship opportunities for college students. To learn more about interning with the Conference, email Chris Santo at chris@mdcatholic.org.

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Registration now open for Catholics in Annapolis

Registration is now open for the Maryland Catholic Conference's annual event, Catholics in Annapolis, which will be held on February 21 starting at 3 p.m. 

Each year, the Maryland Catholic Conference welcomes hundreds of Catholics from across Maryland to the capital to meet face-to-face with legislators and share the Church's position on important issues. 

For the first time, this year's event will kick off with the prayer of the Rosary for our elected leaders, led by Maryland's bishops. Also new this year, inspiring speakers will address attendees to ignite passion for the issues. 

"Our goal is to bring the event back to the core of our faith with the Rosary and to light a fire in the hearts of those who come so they can go share that passion on these issues with their elected leaders," said Jennifer Briemann, executive director of the Conference. "We want each person to leave inspired and continue to be engaged on the issues." 

Among the key issues Catholics will be asked to advocate on this session are a proposed abortion rights constitutional amendment, securing scholarships for low-income students, stopping the legalization of assisted suicide, and protecting human rights.

"This summer, Maryland's House Speaker said he would propose an amendment that would enshrine the so-called right to an abortion in our state's Constitution. As it stands, Maryland already has some of the most permissive abortion laws in the nation and this effort would only waste critical state resources, diverting time and attention away from issues that our state needs to address," said Therese M. Hessler, associate director of Respect for Life. "This proposal threatens the value of Life in Maryland. If passed, it would make it virtually impossible to pass any future legislation that would sanction protection for our most vulnerable citizens: the unborn." 

The Conference is encouraging Catholics to join them in Annapolis on February 21 and stand up for life, justice and human rights. 

To reserve your spot today, visit www.catholicsinannapolis.org or call 410-269-1155. A full agenda for the day and more info is available online. 

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Labor of love: How one Annapolis parish is serving hundreds of immigrant families

It’s not clear exactly how many local Latino families the Our Lady of Guadalupe Ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis has served since it began two years ago. 

But if director Tamara Beigel had to put a number on it: “Several hundred,” she said. 

What began as mostly legal aid to keep local Latino families together has grown to a full parish ministry providing everything from legal services and transportation to medical appointments, to prayer, a youth group, weekly bags of food, diapers, school supplies and clothing. This Christmas, the clothing committee, which operates a donation center out of a volunteer's home, gave each member of 65 families clothes, shoes and blankets. 

“They are the most beautiful people and have such beautiful faith,” Beigel said. 

Most of the families served by the ministry came to Annapolis from El Salvador to escape violence. Many are undocumented.

“Every single one has a story,” Beigel said, detailing some of the horrors past clients have faced in their journey to Annapolis. “It’s not an easy decision to risk life and death to come here.” 

Once here, the families often face issues with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and those that have been torn apart by the immigration process, often struggle to afford basic necessities like food, diapers and transportation. 

Each family has different needs and meeting those needs has enabled the ministry to continually expand. While it may not always be immediately clear how the ministry will meet those needs, Beigel said she prays to Our Lady to intercede and each time God has provided. 

“When there’s a problem or a need, I give it to her and suddenly the right person with the right talents comes about,” she said. “We really are here to serve her vulnerable children and we’re taking our cues from her.” 

Currently, the ministry has a diverse group of about 90 volunteers that include members of St. Mary’s Parish, local attorneys, immigrants and community members, like Joanne O’Keeffe, who said she heard about the cause and wanted to help.

Joanne O’Keeffe, a volunteer with the Our Lady of Guadalupe Ministry at St. Mary’s Parish in Annapolis cleans donated strawberries. The berries were distribute to more than 30 local Hispanic families as part of the ministry’s weekly food delivery.

 

O’Keeffe was among the volunteers who come on Friday afternoons to portion, pack and transport food for the families. In late 2018, the ministry was feeding 32 families. 

“For some, this is the only food they will have this week,” Beigel said. 

As she portioned fresh lettuce, volunteer Marge Frankovich said providing food to the families is “a labor of love.”  

Along with lettuce, Frankovich, O’Keeffe and about five other volunteers packed bags with tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, potatoes, two loaves of French bread, egg noodles, rice noodles and canned fruit — all generously donated by Bel Air Produce and Graul’s Market. St. Mary’s generously offers the ministry use of the Carroll House to pack the food each Friday.

Beigel said each volunteer with the food committee will come at least once a month to help pack and distribute food. But some give their time every week, like Nelson Peña, who coordinates a group of men to deliver the food to the families every Friday evening. 

“After a long week, these men will work to deliver food, sometimes being out ‘till well past 9 p.m.,” Beigel said. 

But the men don’t just deliver the food and leave. Beigel said they will check on the families, ensure each family is OK and report back to Beigel with any additional needs the family might have. 

“We serve the whole family,” she said. That includes children. 

Thanks to donations primarly from Walk the Walk Foundation in Millersville, the ministry provides diapers, baby wipes, and baby food for 25 infants and toddlers. And it’s starting a youth group for the teens of the families. 

“We realized these teens need to feel valued and integrated in the community,” Beigel said. “We want them to have dreams and visions of their future.” Beigel said she has volunteers who are artists, musicians and dancers that are working with the teens.

The families served by the ministry are both grateful and learning that there are those in the community they can trust, Beigel said. 

“They feel they can trust us, that we are a place they can go when these issues arise,” she said “If not for us, they’d likely have no place to go.” 

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