Office of Advocacy and Justice Updates





Update from Catholic Relief Services Million Meals Campaign!

CRS, Stop Hunger Now and the Million Meal Challenge Committee thank the volunteers in Orlando that came out to package meals for Burkina Faso. The gifts of meals and programs will change lives overseas. The gift of time and donations will change the lives of the hungry in Florida. Orlando has joined the movement against hunger. See a video from that wonderful day here! 

Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb

The “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb” has been approved for use in the dioceses of the United States in both English and Spanish since May. The blessing is posted online as a color PDF at and is now available in a booklet form (English and Spanish). Eventually it will be included in future editions of the Book of Blessings/Bendicional.  A complimentary copy of the “Rite for the Blessing of a Child in the Womb” will be mailed to you soon and additional copies may be ordered through USCCB Publishing (Item no. 7-316) at

The blessing celebrates the gift of the child in the womb and includes prayers for the child, the mother, the father, the family and the broader community.  The blessing originated when then-Bishop Joseph Kurtz of Knoxville (now Archbishop of Louisville), at the request of one of his parish priests, asked the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities whether a blessing existed for a child in the womb. When none was found, the committee prepared a text and submitted it to the USCCB Committee on Divine Worship in March of 2008. It was approved by the full body of bishops in November 2008, and then sent to Rome for editing and final approval.


The blessing can be offered by priests (or deacons) within the context of the Mass as well as outside of Mass. A shortened and adapted prayer card for family use at home will be released shortly. We hope that you will encourage parishes to make use of the blessing more than once a year so that all expectant parents might benefit.  Possible dates to consider could include: Respect Life Sunday, during Respect Life Month, during Advent, near the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (December 8), near the celebrations of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), during the Christmas Season, near the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, during May, on Mother’s Day, and other suitable times.

Pastoral Considerations

While the Church celebrates and prays for the protection of children in the womb, she also reaches out in love to those couples who have lost children, as well as couples who struggle in hope for a child or who have received an adverse prenatal diagnosis.  In a special way, we recognize that no matter how short their time in this world, each child is a gift to be loved and cherished. As you promote the use of the blessing, please be sensitive to those who have recently lost a child through abortion, miscarriage, or other infant loss. 

  1. Prayers for couples who are hoping for the gift of a child, who have lost a child, or those waiting to adopt can be included during the prayers of the faithful or in the homily.
  2. While the rite includes a special blessing for mothers, fathers and siblings, sensitivity needs to be exercised in cases where the expectant mother has been abandoned by the father.
  3. Those promoting events surrounding the blessing have found it helpful to advertise the blessing using images, photos or sonograms.  Please be aware that some may view the use of sonograms as private medical information rather than as images of loved ones.  
  4. When the bishops created the rite for the blessing, they intentionally restricted its use to priests and deacons.  Directors should make clear to enthusiastic lay people that the blessing should never be used outside of abortion facilities, where some might attempt to bless unborn children and their mothers as they head into the abortion facility. 


Attached is a sample bulletin announcement and prayers of the faithful which can be modified as needed. 

Below is a link from the local Catholic press about the Cardinal’s promotion of the blessing:


Coalition of Immokalee Workers

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers has just announced their big upcoming spring action: a 150-mile journey to Lakeland they are calling The March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food! .

As told in a highly compelling historical reflection just posted by the CIW here, the lengthy trek will echo their incredible march in 2000 to the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association offices in Orlando.  Among those marching were farmworkers whose testimony led to a pair of seminal slavery convictions and, consequently, their own selection for the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.  

By marching, the CIW’s long anonymous struggle for dignity, fair wages and dialogue with growers moved beyond Immokalee and onto the cognitive map of people throughout the state, and later the nation.  While growers ultimately rejected the farmworkers upon their Orlando arrival thirteen years ago, today almost all major Florida tomato farms are cooperating closely with the CIW to implement the Fair Food Program, which enshrines a multitude of rights and protections for nearly 30,000 farmworkers across the state!

Read more about the two-week trek to Publix HQ in the CIW’s full fantastic write-up here.


Pope Connects Environment with Pro-Life Concerns

In his 2013 World Day of Peace Message, Pope Benedict has connected the Church’s environmental concern with pro-life issues:

Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenseless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn? Every offense against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.


Celebrations and Events 

Helpers’ Mass and Rosary Procession
The next Helpers’ Mass and Rosary procession will be held at St. Augustine Catholic Church (375 North Sunset Dr., Casselberry) on Saturday, January 5, 2013 beginning with Mass at 9am. After Mass we will drive to St. Mary Magdalen (861 Maitland Ave. Altamonte Springs) and start our rosary procession from there. Please join us in praying for the protection of human life. For more information, contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice; 407-246-4819; advocacyjustice@orlandodiocese.orgSee flyer!

Interfaith Prayer for Peace

Bishop Noonan invites the Catholic community to join in prayer with members of other faith communities asking God to lead us to justice and peace on January 17, 2013 at 7 p.m. at St. Margaret Mary in Winter Park. A reception will immediately follow the prayer service. For more information please call us at 407-246-4819 or email  More information here.

March for Life-St. Augustine 2013

You are invited to register for the March for Life in St. Augustine on January 19th, 2013. Every year hundreds of people from all over our state get together to celebrate and defend life and we want you to join us for this great public witness. The keynote speaker will be Mark Houck from The King’s Men, a Catholic men’s ministry dedicated to “building men in the mold of Leader, Protector, and Provider”. Buses are available and youth groups are welcome.  Please see the flyer for more information and to register. Check out the video from last year:

 Prayer Service for Christian Unity

Our Lord has called us to be one. Join Bishop John Noonan as he prays for Christian Unity with leaders from other Christian communities in Central Florida. The service will be hosted by Bishop Gregory Brewer and will be hosted by the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Luke in Downtown Orlando on January 25, 2013 from 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. with a reception following right after. For more information please call us at 407-246-4819 or email More information here.


Conversion in the Year of Faith at St. Andrew Catholic Church

To witness to the “New Evangelization” of the Catholic faith requires an examination of how the teachings of the Church form our understanding of the value and dignity of each person in an increasingly secular and relativist world view. The goal of this day is to provide a forum for examining the profound respect each person is owed in justice and how we may express that Truth through our personal and collective conversion. Come join us at St. Andrew (801 N. Hastings St. Orlando) on Saturday February 23, 2013 from 12 p.m. – 4:15 p.m. Keynote speaker will be Rev. Ben Berinti, C.PP.S. To RSVP and for more details please contact the Advocacy and Justice Office at 407-246-4819 or email us at Click here for more information.

Catholic Days at the Capitol (Tallahassee)

Join us as we meet and build relationships with our legislative representatives and Catholic bishops from all across Florida in our state’s capital, Tallahassee. It is a great opportunity to advocate on social issues and church teachings. We will be in Tallahassee from March 19th to the 21st. Register here!

Action to Protect Working Families from Fiscal Cliff

The U.S. Catholic Bishops are appealing to everyone to tell their senators and representatives that programs serving working poor families must be protected from the fiscal cliff.

Congressional leaders and President Obama continue to discuss a budget package to avoid the “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year by replacing automatic tax increases as well as across the board spending cuts put in place last year. Click here to read a letter from the bishops calling on Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff” with a bipartisan and balanced agreement that raises adequate revenue and protects programs that serve families living in poverty.

Click here to Take Action Now!

Farm Bill to Go Over Fiscal Cliff?

The fiscal cliff continues to get all the attention, but America’s agriculture is facing a cliff of its own. As we’ve noted in previous updates, the 2008 farm bill expired on September 30; House and Senate leaders have yet to reconcile their versions for a new bill.

This year’s harvest is complete, so the effects of the expired bill have been muted for farmers. But if there is no farm bill by the start of the next agricultural year, the government’s price-support scheme will automatically revert to what it was in 1949. Most crops have until the spring or summer, but the deadline for milk and other dairy products comes at the end of December.

We continue to hear that both House and Senate Agriculture leaders are confident that a deal will be reached before the end of the year. For us watching from outside the halls of government, we are not so confident. Yet we continue to hope for some action soon. Stay tuned!


Advocacy Efforts

CCUSA Joins Sector-Wide Call on Charitable Deduction

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) has joined leaders from the Independent Sector, Leadership 18, and the United Way in a sector-wide call on the current state of the charitable deduction in the fiscal cliff discussion.

CCUSA’s President, Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA, was among the featured speakers and discussed the benefit of the deduction to local agencies and middle-income individuals that make donations. Additionally, CCUSA joined with 945 non-profit organizations, signed on to a letter urging Congress to protect the charitable deduction during fiscal cliff negotiations. The letter, which ran as an ad in Capitol Hill publications, can be found here.


Senate Unveils Disaster Aid Proposal 

On Wednesday, Senate appropriators unveiled a draft proposal reflecting the White House’s request for $60.4 billion in disaster relief funding for communities hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.  The proposal includes a provision to reform some of the bureaucratic hurdles that currently face state and local governments as they rebuild after a disaster. Similar reforms were enacted Hurricanes Katrina and Rita supplemental disaster recovery legislation. Included in the funding were:

  • $15 million in funding for the Emergency Food Assistance program to provide USDA commodities to food banks
  • $1 million in funding for the Legal Services Corporation for technology and disaster coordinators to assist low-income people in affected areas
  • $760 billion in funding for the disaster loan program to support lending to individuals and businesses with physical damage to their property and small businesses with economic injury
  • $500 million in funding for the Social Services Block Grant to be used for a range of services including child care, repair to damaged facilities, mental health services, and other human services.
  • $100 million in funding for repairing approx. 265 Head Start centers damage by the superstorm and other supplemental costs associated with continuing      services to affected children
  • $50 million in funding for the expansion of training and employment services to assist dislocated workers.
  • $15 billion in funding for the disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in areas impacted the superstorm.

The bill is expected to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote this week. For more information about the proposal, including detail on proposed allocations, please click here.


Census Releases Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates

This week, the Census Bureau released the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) data and report for 2011. The SAIPE program uses data from other Census surveys and administrative records to produce model-based estimates of poverty and income for states, counties, and school districts. This study is the only source for poverty estimates on the school district level. The report’s findings for 2011 include showing that 49.2% of all school-age children lived in districts with poverty rates greater than 20% for school-age children. Additionally, 110 school districts had poverty rates of greater than 50% for school-age children. Find information for your county or school district using the SAIPE interactive charts or maps.

Protect People and Families Striving to Live in Dignity

Tell your senators and representative that programs serving working poor families must be protected from the “fiscal cliff.” In discussing the various proposals, programs that help families escape poverty and live in dignity should be strengthened.

Current Situation and Background: Congressional leaders and President Obama continue to discuss a budget package to avoid the “fiscal cliff” at the end of the year. They are dealing with big numbers and important questions, however the record number of people living in poverty, and the millions more looking for decent work, should receive priority consideration.

Last week, Bishop Stephen Blaire, Chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop Richard Pates Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, wrote to Congress calling on Congress to avoid the “fiscal cliff” with a bipartisan and balanced agreement that raises adequate revenue and protects programs that serve families living in poverty. Read the letter here.

USCCB Position/Church Teaching: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states it is the proper role of government to “make accessible to each what is needed to lead a truly human life: food, clothing, health, work, education and culture, suitable information, the right to establish a family, and so on” (no. 1908).

The bishops’ criteria remains consistent throughout the budget process: protect human life and dignity; the needs of the poor and vulnerable come first; and government and other institutions have a shared responsibility to promote the common good of all.

Take Action Now!