Category Archives: Voting and Democracy

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Feast of St. Joseph the Worker

Mary Cunningham
April 30, 2018

“He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.’ ” – St. Bernardine of Siena

On May 1, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. Pope Pius XII established this feast day in 1955 to honor St. Joseph and celebrate the Catholic Church’s commitment to the dignity of labor. St. Joseph cared for Mary, his wife, and Jesus, his son, through his work as a carpenter, representing for us the ideal of dignified work and faithful contribution to the common good. His example reminds all workers to participate in God’s continuing creation each and every day through our own labor.

As I reflect on St. Joseph the Worker, I am reminded of the teacher strikes emerging throughout our country in the past few months. Beginning in West Virginia –and growing to Colorado, Kentucky, Arizona, and Oklahoma– teachers are uniting to demand higher wages and better conditions for the schools where they teach. The teachers rallying are from states with some of the lowest salaries for educators in the country. They are calling for more state funding for public education, which is currently inadequate.

In a pivotal move, teachers are leaving their classrooms to go on strike. In West Virginia, the teachers hoped to point out not only inadequate pay, but also changes to PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency), a health insurance company that covers state employees. They also wanted to highlight the large number of teacher vacancies (700 in West Virginia) resulting from poor school conditions and low teacher pay. In Colorado, teachers rallied at the State Capitol for various reasons, among them fear of changes to retirement and pension plans. United for a common mission, these teachers have gained national attention, and in some cases, secured greater education funding.

Like teachers, workers across professions are joining together to demand just wages and benefits for their work. At the Christian Care Home  in Ferguson, Missouri, healthcare workers participated in a 104 day-long strike because the nursing home mishandled vacation and violated  the contract for time off  for its employees. Around 65 full-time employees and 25 part-time workers participated in the strike, which eventually led to a 20 cent an hour raise to $9.85 an hour. Christian Care Home also agreed to cover health insurance rates and cover payouts for unfair labor practices. This is another striking example of what it looks like to take action to secure dignified labor.

As we celebrate St Joseph the Worker today, we recall all workers who have experienced injustice and sought better working conditions for themselves and those around them. The teachers going on strike, and all teachers across the United States, are shaping our education system and forming the young women and men who will soon enter the workforce, and serve as our politicians, engineers, and innovators. Their contribution to the common good cannot be understated. All workers deserve dignity, fair compensation, and safe work environments that allow them to shape our shared future and contribute to the common good.

My Family’s Immigration Story

My Family’s Immigration Story

Monsieree de Castro
February 21, 2018

Allow me to tell you all a (very common) story about “chain migration,” a portion of the immigration system the current administration and members of Congress are trying to eliminate.

In 1977, my father was petitioned by my aunt, who was living in Seattle, to come join her in the United States using the sibling category of family reunification (what some offensively refer to as “chain migration”). The waiting process for family visas can take decades, and my father waited 17 years to have his papers approved for him to come to the United States. It wasn’t until 1994 that we as a family finally stepped foot on American soil for the first time.

It has been 24 years of struggling in a country that more often than not makes you feel unwanted for your brown skin and foreign customs, but also 24 years filled with triumphs and success. My parents have held multiple jobs since we first came to this country, from caregiver to custodian. Today, our family has grown and my siblings and I lead successful lives and are all contributing taxpayers and members of the community. Of my siblings, we currently have a Director working in social services at the Asian Counseling and Referral Service, an IT professional working for Paul Allen’s business/philanthropy, an accountant providing her skills at a hospital, and finally, the youngest and most Americanized sibling, foolishly pursuing her dreams in the most American way possible; living and working in politics in Washington DC hoping to contribute to the country that has given so much to her. Additionally, major props to my awesome parents and each of my siblings who all own their own homes, collectively owning 5 pieces of real estate across the Seattle area (I’m clearly the millennial of the clan, probably eating avocado toast instead of buying a house).

My family’s story is not at all unique. This is the story of millions of Americans who come here seeking the opportunity for a better life. This is the simplified version of the story, leaving out the heartaches of visas that were never approved after years of waiting, and parts of our family that continue to be split apart (no, you can’t “bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” there are countless restrictions). This is also the story of a privileged family that was lucky enough to have a pathway to pursue the American dream and citizenship, and had the economic stability to wait 17 years to have a visa approved.

The current administration claims that the program that allowed my family to come and succeed in the United States needs to be eliminated for the sake of the “economy and the future of America”. But Mr. President, I am CERTAIN that allowing families like mine to be welcomed into this country is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the success of our economy and future of our great nation.

Monsieree de Castro is a former NETWORK associate. She currently works at Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

In 2018, We Commit to Activism

Claudia Brock
January 17, 2018

I felt rejuvenated when I came back to work in the New Year. That is, until I opened my email to find a 33-page document my colleague had emailed me detailing why 2018 will make 2017 seem tame. All I could think was, Are you kidding me??

As I thought of all of the work that the NETWORK community did in 2017 I was reminded of Kimmy from the Netflix series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt declaring “you can do anything for 10 seconds!” as she turns a heavy mental crank in her underground bunker. She starts out smiling and cheery as she counts, “1, 2, 3, 4…” but by the time she reaches number 5 she is straining and once she is at number 9 you are not sure if she will make it. But when she finishes, she goes right back to smiling with another round of cranking, starting at number 1. If you have not yet seen the show you can get a visual here.

Remaining politically active right now can feel a lot like we are Kimmy turning her heavy crank. At first we are energized and willing to tackle the task, but as we keep going our energy wanes and it gets harder and harder until we are right back in the grind with another important issue. If one thing about our work in 2018 is clear it is that we really need YOU. We need you to keep making calls to your legislators; we need you to schedule lobby visits in your district; we need you to be engaged in whatever way you can be.

Around 80% of New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by February. So if you are looking for a new resolution or a way to amend your current one to make it a bit more realistic, here are 3 ways you can resolve to be a better activist in 2018:

  1. Claim your title

NBC News reported that millennial men are 15% more likely to call themselves activists than millennial women. What makes this discrepancy more disconcerting is that most nonprofits are led by women and most phone calls to Congress have been made– you guessed it– by women! If you are a person who believes in political or social change and are taking part in activities to make this happen, then you are an activist. Resolve to claim both your title and your power and continue to work towards your vision of society.

  1. Use listening and storytelling as a form of activism

Being an activist does not have to mean hosting the next Women’s March; it can be as simple as seeking out new perspectives on issues. Use the experiences of others to expand your understanding of an issue and be open to updating your position. You can intentionally watch documentaries, read books by authors of color to get their perspective, or resolve to have a transformative conversation.

When going on a lobby visit, calling your Member of Congress, or even posting a position on your Facebook page, be sure to not just post facts and figures, but to ground your policy position in stories about human realities. Talk about a family member who has lost their health care or a friend who is undocumented to bring a human face to policies that can often feel abstract.

  1. Find balance and community

In these turbulent political times it is so easy to feel overwhelmed with all there is to do. Resolve to find a balance in your activism that leaves you feeling engaged but not over-extended. Whether it is incorporating a daily phone call to your Member of Congress into your lunch break or writing an email to your legislator once a week, find an action and frequency that works for you and add it into your routine; soon it will become a beneficial habit.

Taking action as part of a community might also help you stick to your political engagement resolutions. Find a buddy to make phone calls to Congress with so you are not tempted to hang up when you are put on hold, or go to a town hall meeting with a family member. Tackling an action with another person can make activism fun and connect you to other people working hard to create social change.

I am so thankful for all of the actions that our community of justice-seekers took in 2017. Now let’s see what we can accomplish in 2018!

Who Are We the People?

2020 Census: Who Are We the People?

Lily Ryan
August 10, 2017

With the many ups and downs of health care and immigration over the last seven months, I’ve found myself quoting numbers and statistics all the time: Who receives benefits from what programs; which states have the most to lose if the ACA was overturned; numbers that illustrate immigration’s positive impacts of on a state and national level.

Thinking deeper into each of these data points, a more basic question emerges—from “Who are the people who will be affected?” to “Who are the people?” Every ten years we have a constitutionally-mandated census and we as a country get to ask this question: “Who is here?” The answer we find shapes legislation, budgets, and federal policies and programs for the next ten years.

Catholic tradition tells us that every person matters and that no one deserves to be left behind. The 2020 Census is an opportunity to affirm the presence and worth of our entire population, most especially those who have been left out of the minds and hearts of lawmakers. As people of conscience and members of a diverse and changing society, it is our duty to make sure everyone is counted and treated with dignity, and the fate of funding for the 2020 Census will have a major impact on whether or not we can succeed.

The U.S. Census Bureau is one of the most overlooked agencies in the federal government, but its work has an enormous impact on the functioning of the rest of government. As Congress shifts its focus to the federal budget, funding for the Census Bureau at the level needed to gather an accurate picture of the United States in 2020 is in serious jeopardy.

Funding for the census in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget will either establish or prevent an effective and efficient 2020 Census process . The GOP and the White House have signaled their reticence to allocate adequate funding to the census, focusing particular ire on the Census Bureau’s modernized techniques, including statistical and spatial analysis in combination with traditional mail-in and door-to-door surveys.

Full funding of the census must be a budget priority starting now because an effective census process will ensure a more accurate count of the population. Insufficient counting methods have, in the past, led to an undercount of some populations and an overcount of others.

The populations most likely to be undercounted- low-income people, people of color, young children and undocumented immigrants- are also the groups who are most at-risk as the GOP and Trump administration seek to make cuts to social programs. An undercount of these populations in the 2020 Census would only compound the exclusion and damage caused by the GOP’s draconian budget proposals.

An accurate census count will have long-lasting ramifications on the allocation of federal money for programs that help low-income families with healthcare and child care, provide job training and employment programs to people without jobs, and promote safe and healthy communities across the country. In a time of alternative facts and fake news, we should all agree that the census is something we need to get right.

Lily Ryan is a summer intern with the NETWORK Communications team.

Time for Moral Leadership on Census

NETWORK Lobby Position on Funding the Census

Download as a print-friendly PDF to share with your friends, or elected officials!

Download PDF.

NETWORK believes it is every citizen’s right and responsibility to participate in the political process. No individual or community should be disenfranchised by federal policy. A modern, accurate, and equitable 2020 Census is necessary for a fair democracy in which everybody counts.

What We Know

Since 1790, the U.S. Census Bureau has conducted a count of the country’s population every 10 years, as required by the U.S. Constitution. In conjunction with this count, the American Community Survey (ACS) gathers more detailed information on the changing economic and social conditions of the population. Both of these programs are crucial for informing policymakers, apportioning Congressional districts, and distributing over $450 billion in federal program funding each year that is used for public healthcare, education, development, transportation, housing, the enforcement of civil rights, and much more.

Our Values
  • Our faith traditions compel us to care for those most in need, and providing adequate funding for an effective 2020 Census is a crucial prerequisite for federal policies and programs to respond to the needs of marginalized communities.
  • Our faith mandates that everybody counts.
  • Political participation is vital to fulfilling the moral obligation to concern ourselves with the common good and to strive for a just society.

Investing in the Common Good

The census and ACS are crucial sources of information for state and local governments, researchers, businesses, and many other stakeholders working for the common good. Despite the importance of this Constitutional requirement, preparation for the 2020 Census is threatened by uncertain and insufficient funding. A failure to provide adequate funding for the Census Bureau will not only impact the effectiveness of the census, but also cost taxpayers billions of dollars as the Census Bureau is forced to fall back on more costly counting methods of the past.  For effective governance to respond to the needs of the people and promote the common good, we need to invest in Census Bureau preparations so that nobody is left out.

Federal Policies Must Mend Gaps, not Widen Them

Providing adequate funding for an effective and accurate 2020 Census is a crucial prerequisite for federal policies and programs to respond to the needs of marginalized communities. Past decennial censuses have tended to undercount communities of color, people experiencing poverty, young children, and rural residents. The systematic undercounting of these communities decreases their access to federal funding and proportional representation. If the Census Bureau is not able to ramp up spending to conduct necessary tests and prepare for 2020, we fear that these gaps in the census will persist.

A modern, accurate, and equitable 2020 Census is needed for effective governance to promote the common good. Many of the programs that help to mend the gaps in our society and allow all to live in dignity depend on data from the decennial census. The 2020 Census will have implications for the funding of:

  • Rural business and industry development loans
  • Job training and other employment programs under the Job Training Partnership Act
  • Health care for infants and children
  • Child care to enable low-income and working families to work, train for a job, or obtain an education
  • Water and waste disposal systems
  • Policing agencies and community-based entities to work together to reduce crime
  • Monitoring and enforcing employment discrimination laws under the Civil Rights Act
  • Local agencies for food, health care, and legal services for senior citizens and individuals with disabilities

An underfunded, inaccurate 2020 Census would skew the projections of needed resources and programs away from the communities that need them. An equitable census is the foundation for a society in which everybody has a chance for success, all have dignity, and everybody counts.

What Congress Can Do Now

Ramp up Census Bureau funding in FY 2018:
The Trump Administration’s request of $1.5 billion for the Census Bureau is woefully inadequate. Congress should ensure the Census Bureau has adequate resources to prepare for the 2020 Census in the crucial FY 2018 budget year.

Oppose efforts to weaken the Census:
Congress must oppose efforts that would steer money away from the Census Bureau to other programs funded by the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill. We also urge Congress to oppose any amendments during consideration of FY 2018 appropriations bills that would change the mandatory status of the American Community Survey

Blog: Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Concluding the 114th Congress, Moving Right Along to the 115th

Sister Marge Clark
December 20, 2016

The 114th Congress ground to a halt about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 10 after just barely managing to not shut down the government.  A vote passed extending 2016 funding levels into the seventh month of fiscal year 2017. We strongly believe, however, that one temporary Continuing Resolution (CR) after another is no way to responsibly fund our government.

As we prepare to enter 2017, NETWORK continues work to support all at the margins of society due to unemployment or under-employment, immigration status, health issues, and many other concerns. Our 2020 Policy Vision guides our lobbying, outreach, and education to mend the access and wealth and income gaps that are rampant in our nation.  With this Continuing Resolution in place, the only means of increasing funding where absolutely necessary is through an anomaly.

NETWORK’s 2020 Vision did not fare well in the Continuing Resolution.  We focused our efforts on three items desperately needing increased funding and  advocated forincreased funding in each of the three following areas:

1. Census 2020

This is one area that did receive an increase from 2016 funding in the CR. The Census Bureau will be allowed to spend money earlier in the cycle, in an attempt to meet urgent planning needs.  This does not give the Census Bureau additional money, as had been requested. Instead, it leaves them with the same uncertainty about long-term funding for comprehensive planning in many areas, including: the census communications campaign, development of in-language materials, updating address lists, and adequate enumerator training, not to mention making progress on updating all census IT systems and cyber-security protocols. Using this money will also reduce the funds available to conduct the annual American Community Survey which provides important data on economic and healthcare status used by many departments.

2. Refugee Resettlement

Meeting this grave responsibility requires sufficient funding for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to welcome and support refugees as they strive to adapt and to thrive in the United States. In FY 2016, $1.67 billion in funding was calculated to serve 75,000 (and in the end assisted 85,000). The United States announced that, due to the global refugee crisis, we would accept 110,000. However, increased funding (a minimum of $2.18 million required to support the additional refugees, unaccompanied children and trafficking survivors) was not provided.

One allowance was made, if needed, for the housing and care of unaccompanied children, with the recognition that, due to the variability in the increased number of children coming into the country, it is possible that additional funds may be needed for this population.

3. Housing

Housing in the United States continues to be in short, and expensive, supply for households with low- or no-income. Federal rental assistance is critical for there to be available, affordable housing units. Thousands of public housing units are lost each year, from deterioration and lack of repair. At the same time, hundreds of thousands of families and individuals are homeless, living with others, in shelters, and even living on the streets. For many, they are unable to get rental assistance vouchers to help pay rent. NETWORK advocated for funding to at least be able to support the number of vouchers already in use, as well as funding to repair public housing. These requests, however, were not honored in the CR. The existing number of vouchers supported by the 2016 funds cannot be supported at 2017 costs. Additionally, owners’ costs will increase and those costs will be passed on to renters who are unable to cover that increase. This leaves federal housing assistance to cover the gap. Ultimately, with this CR, more households face homelessness.  A small increase was given for rural housing, in the Agriculture appropriation.

Our elected officials have left Washington for their winter break – to be with family, celebrate the holidays, and perhaps vacation. The same enjoyment is not available for members of our communities who rely on some government assistance to live a life with dignity. This may be a person sleeping on the street, a refugee stuck in a camp somewhere in the world, or those who will not be counted in the 2020 census, leading to inadequate funding for future years of “promoting the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”  We hope all legislators take a moment during their time away from Washington to reflect on the needs of the common good.

Advent Reflection Week One

Advent Reflection:
The Importance of the Census

Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
November 30, 2016

Woven into my Advent thoughts this week, is the marvel of the census. In many ways the census is at the heart of our Christmas story because it was Caesar Augustus’s census that required Mary and Joseph to leave Nazareth and return to Bethlehem to be counted.

I thought a census was about the emperor’s desire to know just how many people were under his rule. But reflecting on the reality, I realized it is also about Mary and Joseph’s desire to be seen and registered as family. The “House of David” is a metaphor for the familial ties to an extended clan. So the counting was important not only to the emperor, but also to the family. The census is both an individual and communal act.

So too, is our work on ensuring adequately funding for the 2020 census. The census seems quite mundane and individualistic, but it is a communal act. To be counted means that each individual is accorded the same dignity. It doesn’t matter whether the person is in a Manhattan penthouse, under a bridge or in an overcrowded apartment. Each individual is just one.

What I had failed to realize was the communal nature of the census. The census data collected in each state impacts the amount of federal funding  states recieve for many programs. It affects how we understand poverty and the struggle of low income families. For justice-seekers, the census data is a crucial tool that enables our government to provide for all. The census gives us a snapshot of our society and to be accurate it needs to include each and every person, especially the groups that are historically hard to count.

This Advent, let us work to prepare for the census for the individual dignity of having everyone seen AND for the communal vision that we are all connected.

NETWORK Joins Call for Census Funding

NETWORK Joins Interfaith Group Calling for Census Funding

Lucas Allen
November 16, 2016

NETWORK and 18 other advocacy organizations from different faith traditions recently sent a letter urging Congress to fully fund the Census Bureau in preparation for the 2020 Census. The census is an issue of concern for people of faith because:

  • Communities of color, people experiencing poverty, immigrants, young children, and rural residents are often undercounted in the census, which decreases these communities’ access to federal funding and proportional representation
  • The Census Bureau needs increased funding in FY 2017 to complete testing to improve accuracy in counting these populations in preparation for the 2020 Census. Uncertainty about funding has already prompted the Bureau to cancel the 2017 Puerto Rico census test and both field sites for the 2017 census test (American Indian reservations and tribal lands in Washington and North/South Dakota)
  • We need the 2020 Census to be modern, accurate, and equitable so that Congressional districts, federal programs, and policies are better equipped to meet the needs of the country

For more information, read the full letter below

Download PDF here.

November 10, 2016

Honorable Harold Rogers
Committee on Appropriations
H-305 The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Honorable Nita Lowey
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
1016 Longworth H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:

We, the undersigned faith organizations and members of the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, urge you to increase funding for the U.S. Census Bureau to match the President’s $1.634 billion budget request in the House and Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science bills. Our faith traditions compel us to care for those most in need, and providing adequate funding for an effective 2020 Census is a crucial prerequisite for federal policies and programs to respond to the needs of marginalized communities.

A failure to provide adequate funding for the Census Bureau will not only impact the effectiveness of the Census, but also cost taxpayers billions of dollars as the Census Bureau is forced to fall back on more costly counting methods of the past. These outdated methods tend to undercount communities of color, people experiencing poverty, immigrants, young children, and rural residents, which decreases these communities’ access to federal funding and proportional representation. If the Bureau does not receive increased funding in FY2017 to conduct necessary tests and prepare for 2020, we fear that these gaps in the Census will persist.

Some of the reasons our community of faith supports an effective and equitable 2020 Census include:

  • The 2020 Census will determine the allocation of $415 billion for the implementation of federal programs
  • Census data is used to monitor and enforce important federal programs such as the Job Training Partnership Act, the Older Americans Act, and the Civil Rights Act
  • Undercounting communities reduces their political representation and decreases their share of federal funding and support, further
  • A poorly-funded Census will negatively affect all, but particularly those most in need who will go uncounted if the Census Bureau cannot adequately prepare

Uncertainty about Congressional appropriations has already caused the Census Bureau to halt plans for important tests in FY2017. These tests were intended to prepare the Bureau to accurately count communities that have been undercounted in the past, such as Native American reservations and non-English-speaking communities. The impact of cutting these crucial tests will be felt by marginalized communities. It is unacceptable that Congressional inaction would force the Census Bureau to water down the Constitutional requirement of conducting a decennial census.

Stakeholders including state and local governments, businesses, civil rights organizations, housing and child advocates, and research organizations have voiced the need for a modern and accurate 2020 Census. As an interreligious community of organizations, we join in to urge you to support an equitable Census as a moral obligation. Our faith traditions teach that all humans possess inherent dignity—that everybody counts—and therefore we believe that nobody should go uncounted in our democracy. Funding the Census Bureau at the recommended amount of $1.634 billion is an important step in protecting and strengthening the 2020 Census.


Bread for the World
Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good
Church World Service
Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Ecumenical Poverty Initiative
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Office of Social Justice; Christian Reformed Church in North America
Pax Chrsiti USA
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Follow Pope’s Example of “Meddling” in Politics

Follow Pope’s Example of ‘Meddling’ in Politics

By Sister Simone Campbell, SSS
October 24, 2016

The world’s Catholics now have a Pope who prioritizes the common good, and encourages Catholics to get involved in politics. He has said “a good Catholic meddles in politics,” and getting involved in politics this election is desperately needed. I predict that this year, the first presidential election since the election of Pope Francis, we will see a rise in the Pope Francis voter: People who are genuinely concerned with exploitation of our people and our earth. These Pope Francis voters will come together this election season to defeat bigotry and hate.

While Pope Francis’s message is one of welcome and inclusion, we know that some politicians continue the dog whistle call of the political far right, attempting to control the Catholic vote through a single issue. In 2016, it won’t work. Our faith calls us to address the needs of all the people at the margins of our society. It’s not just about the needs of the unborn or those on death row. It’s not just about the needs of the top 1 percent, or the 99 percent, but it’s about the 100 percent.

This election can’t be about a single issue, it cannot just be about protecting the unborn, but also about protecting immigrants, Muslims, women, children and people in poverty. Any Catholic who has heard Donald Trump disparaging immigrants as criminals and rapists, advocating for sexual assault and the exploitation of women, denigrating Muslims, demeaning people of color by labeling them thugs, and calling people in poverty losers knows that he is not a presidential candidate deserving of the Catholic vote.

Recently, leaked and stolen emails from 2012 have revealed a conversation among several Catholics who are now tied to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. This has been painted as “anti-Catholic bigotry.” Let me be clear: This is manufactured hysteria, a desperate political move and a farce. Those who are genuinely concerned about the interests of Catholics would promote the dignity of work, stand with those who are living in poverty against the structures of injustice, and rise above individual interest for the good of the whole community.

This October, I’m traveling through Cincinnati to talk with my fellow Nuns on the Bus, and all the Pope Francis voters who join him in his prayer: “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” Nuns on the Bus Ohio has been committed to this effort, holding politicians accountable for the voter purge which would hinder access to democracy, working with immigrants and refugees to improve access to citizenship, and protecting our environment as stewards of the earth.

I am coming to Cincinnati to meet with people who are pursuing employment and seeking housing opportunities, to learn more about their lives, and to talk about issues that are most important to them this election season. I am also coming to Cincinnati to talk with people who aren’t Catholic, but share the conviction that we must do all we can to care for the common good. I invite you to join me for an election discussion that focuses on the common good. As people of faith, we must be a model for the media and for our candidates that we want a substantive conversation, not fights that tear apart the fabric of our society.

In 2016, Catholics are Pope Francis voters who work for the common good. We must not allow our polarizing election to turn us around.

Originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Voting: A Privilege and a Responsibility

Voting: A Privilege and a Responsibility

By Mackenzie Harris
September 27, 2016

As a millennial and a “Pope Francis voter” I cannot stress how concerned I am for our nation during this Presidential election. We’ve been faced with some of the most hateful messages from potential leaders of our country – it’s embarrassing. Frankly it isn’t what the title President of the United States of America means to me.

I may sound like just another millennial complaining about the government, but isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t we all be working for a better, more just society? It is a privilege that we live in a place where we decide the leaders of our country, so why not take advantage of it?

In many ways I think we get lost in our privilege and forget that we have the responsibility to use it to lift up the voices of people on the margins. And because we are Americans we have the right to speak directly to the causes at hand by voting, contacting our Members of Congress, or speaking out in our community.

I moved to Washington, D.C. to join NETWORK, and to use my privilege to work for the greater good. I’m inspired by NETWORK’s mission and my peers, who speak out about the importance of voting. The truth is, voting is the primary way to have a say in justice. As an American, each and every citizen has a responsibility to hold our government accountable for their actions through civic engagement and activism.

However, questioning our democracy and not doing anything about it is just a scapegoat to push the responsibility onto someone else. And in reality, it’s up to everyone.

Whether you have zero interest in getting caught up in the “drama” of politics or would rather spend your time occupying your mind elsewhere, I encourage you to spend time educating yourself on the Presidential candidates and the importance of voting. NETWORK has created Side by Side comparisons of the major Presidential candidates, and Senate races in several key states to help you see where the candidates stand on our Mend the Gap issues.

Although I am discouraged by the bigotry and hate spewed this past year, I am looking forward to Election Day as a time for unity in our nation. I am excited for our people to come together to work for the common good. I believe in this country and especially the people in it, because when faced with adversities we can overcome and together we can create systemic change.

This is the government we have; now it’s up to us to participate so our democracy works by choosing our leaders, and lobbying them on issues we care about.

Do you want to be a part of the group that says “voting is pointless” or turns a blind eye while our nation is in desperate need of your support?

I hope not. Register to vote today!