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Br. Steve Herro's Blog


Br. Steve HerroBr. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.

DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.

October 1, 2014
Entry #32: "Speak up now, or forever hold your peace!"

by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.

I chat regularly with staff from national, state, and diocesan Catholic offices who are heavily engaged with social policy and legislative advocacy. Tony is one such friend – how does he maintain his spirits as Coordinator of Justice for Immigrants campaign when Congress and the President seem to raise so many false alarms about comprehensive immigration reform? Ron is a lobbyist for the Church in the U.S. Congress – despite Congressional gridlock, Ron is one of the most positive persons that you would ever meet. And, I am reminded of Rev. David Beckmann’s (President of Bread for the World) message to us at the Diocese of Arlington’s fall convening last month: Congress can entertain multiple visits from lobbyists working for national faith based organizations, but what really forces its hand is feedback from its own constituents.

A few weeks ago, several priests and brothers with whom I live were discussing whether we had ever written a letter to our Governor. I was the only one in the room who had ever done so! To put it mildly, I was shocked. Maybe constituent apathy within Catholic circles has a longer history than what I thought. Indeed, if some provided a fraction of the energy that they devote to the “horse race” angle of civic engagement (that is, speculation on who will run for what seat) to dialogue with their legislator on pending legislation, our officials might actually feel the presence of the faith community when they vote.

In less than one month, we will choose governors and legislators for our national and state capitals. According to Michael O’Laughlin (“Americans to religious leaders: Speak up more,” Crux, September 22, 2014), “With election season in full swing, a growing number of Americans believe that religion is losing its influence in public life – and they are unhappy about it.”

O’Laughlin, quoting a recent Pew Research Center poll also notes, “...49 percent of Americans want churches to ‘express their views on day-to-day social and political questions,’ up from 43 percent just before the 2010 elections... The numbers of Catholics who want their Church to be more engaged in the political arena increased, too, to 48 percent today, up from 37 percent in 2010. Forty-three percent of Catholics believe political leaders express their faith too little.”

I have a simple suggestion: write to your legislator about your position on the U.S. role in Iraq/Syria, the unaccompanied youth border crisis, U.S. attempts to limit carbon emission, or whatever policy issue strikes your fancy and carbon copy your pastor and bishop! And don’t forget that you are a person of faith – you can even mention the name of your parish or religious order in your letter or e-mail. Both legislators and the religious leaders will get the message that you care and expect them to care, too.



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