On April 12, David Alan Gore, is scheduled to be executed at Florida State Prison, in Starke, Florida. Your parish is encouraged to continue to pray for Mr. Gore, his family, the victim’s family; for all the public officials involved in this scheduled execution; for Governor Scott, that he will discern God’s will and apply the teachings of our Catholic faith on the death penalty. Please contact Governor Scott to ask for his clemency. Parishes are encouraged to participate in prayer services at the parish or to attend a prayer service at the execution site in Starke. For more information on the prayer service, contact the Office of Advocacy and Justice, firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-246-4819.
The U. S. Catholic Bishops have called all Catholics to participate in a campaign to achieve the abolishment of the death penalty. Get more information on this initiative at Catholics Mobilizing Network to End the Use of the Death Penalty, see: http://catholicsmobilizing.org/.
Our Bishops have stated that, “At a time when the sanctity of life is threatened in many ways, taking life is not really a solution but may instead effectively undermine respect for life.” This pending execution gives Florida Catholics the opportunity to be a part of the campaign in a very personal way. Our hearts and lives must have special space for the victims and their loved ones as well. But let it be known that “standing with families of victims does not compel us to support the use of the death penalty” (U.S. Bishops).
•For men and women who sit on death row.
•For the victims of violence and hatred, that they may be freed from pain and fear.
•For the loved ones of those who have suffered death at the hands of another person, may their hearts experience the healing and reconciling power of the Holy Spirit.
•For the families of those condemned to die, that the hope of the resurrection and the truth of the Gospel of life might strengthen them in their time of need.
•May the witness of the Church to the sacredness of all life serve to call our nation to a new awakening in responding to crime and determining punishment.
Rachel’s Vineyard Post-Abortion Retreat will be held on May 18-20 at San Pedro Center in Winter Park. If you have been affected by abortion and need healing, community and the love of God, this retreat is for you. This confidential retreat offers a safe, non-judgmental environment where women and men find healing and reconciliation for the most painful experience of abortion. For more information or to register, please contact Karen Reilly at 321.662.5097 or email email@example.com. You may also visit www.rachelsvineyard.org for information about Rachel’s Vineyard.
Tax benefits such as the Earned Income Credit (EIC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) continue to deliver critical work supports for employees in low-wage jobs. Claiming these tax credits can put an eligible worker on the path to securing better housing, pursuing higher education, obtaining dependable transportation, covering out-of-pocket health care costs, or paying for quality child care. Working families need to know that when they file their tax return in 2012, they may be eligible for an EIC worth up to $5,751, a Child Tax Credit worth up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under age 17; and that they can get free tax filing assistance. For more information (including outreach training opportunities), questions, or additional materials, contact the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities at 202-408-1080, www.eitcoutreach.org, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Operation Rice Bowl
We are in our third week of the Lenten season and Catholic Relief Services Operation Rice Bowl is reflecting on El Salvador this week. Spend a little time this week learning about a community that now has clean, reliable access to water. The video on this project is a great way to prepare for World Water Day on March 22. As you continue your Lenten observance discover new ways your classroom or youth group can pray for and learn about the poor around the world.
Caring for God’s Creation
April 22 marks Earth Day, a day for reflection on and appreciation of creation. To help your school or parish mark this day, CRS has resources for you to use to educate young people about our responsibility to care for creation, a gift from God.
You will also find materials and information from the Catholic Climate Covenant. If your school or parish hasn’t done so already, consider signing the St. Francis Pledge to Care for Creation and the Poor.
The Obama administration is currently weighing cuts in U.S. nuclear forces. Within weeks, the President will be making important, once-in-a-decade decisions on the Presidential nuclear weapons policy “guidance.” This guidance affects everything from war plans to the size, structure and cost of the nuclear arsenal. It will help determine whether we continue to live with the threat of nuclear annihilation or move closer to a world free of the danger of nuclear war. Sign this petition to press President Obama to make good on his commitment to “put an end to Cold War thinking” and pursue further, dramatic steps that would make us all safer from the threat of nuclear weapons. Sign the Petition now.
Faithful Citizenship Web Resource Highlights
Dozens of resources at www.faithfulcitizenship.org can help you share Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship with your audiences. Here is one new resources: Bulletin Announcements, including over a dozen announcements that you can use between now and the elections to help Catholics in your parish to reflect on the messages of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
Good Friday First Fridays for Food Security (April 6)
For the past year, Catholics have been “fasting” on the first Friday of each month in solidarity with persons in poverty by limiting meal spending to the amount allotted for a family of their size in the USDA Modified Thrifty Food Plan. Friday, April 6 is Good Friday, as well as the first Friday of the month. On Good Friday, we reflect on the passion and death of Christ. The passion also reminds us that “the Lord hears the cry of the multitudes” (Pope Benedict XVI, Lenten Message, 2006). On April 6, join other Catholics in practicing the traditional Good Friday fast, and also limiting meal spending in accordance with First Fridays for Food Security. This special handout is available to assist your reflection on that day.
April: Autism Awareness Month in Parishes & Dioceses
April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day Let us join together once again to make it Autism Awareness Month in our parishes! See catholicswithautism.org for many resources for pastoral and catechetical staff. Most resources can also be used to support those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Resources include: bulletin announcements, Mass petitions, Prayer of St. Francis, Parent Interview Form, and many more!
Resources from the USCCB Poverty and Unemployment Page
Lenten Resources for Homilists, Educators, Parish Leaders and Families
The USCCB Unemployment and Poverty page has many great resources for a variety of audiences, including reflections, prayers, bulletin articles, and homily suggestions, including homilies connected to the rite of Scrutinies for RCIA candidates.“Tools for Education and Advocating” CSMG 2012 Workshop PowerPoint The PowerPoint from the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on Tools for Educating and Advocating on Poverty and Unemployment is now available for your use.
Sign Up for Two Upcoming Webinars
A Webinar on Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship is available for Social Ministry and Pro-Life Diocesan and State Catholic Conference Staff only. The webinar is Wednesday, March 21, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. RSVP now.
A Webinar on the Two Feet of Love in Action (open to everyone) is on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. EDT. This Catholics Confront Global Poverty webinar will introduce the Two Feet of Love in Action, the newly revised model to teach about two distinct, but complementary, ways that we can put love in action: Social Justice and Charitable Works. RSVP now.
Administration Unveils FY2013 Budget
On February 6, the Obama administration released its budget outline for the 2013 fiscal year. While not expected to gain Congressional approval, the President’s budget sets a blueprint for the administration’s spending priorities for the coming year. Overall, funding for most safety-net programs was funded at current levels. Some notable changes in this year’s budget include:
- A significant reduction in funding to the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) from $677 million to $350 million, while establishing standards for states to assess CDBG recipients.
- Eliminating Mental Health (MHBG) and Substance Abuse (SABG) block grant and creates a new program, reducing the combined funding by $30 million to $903 million.
- Providing a $40 million increase in funding for Promise Neighborhoods.
- Redirecting TANF contingency fund dollars $319 million to permanently fund the TANF supplemental grants for population increases.
- Reducing funding for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) by $20 million.
- Increasing funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
- Providing $12.5 billion in funding for the Pathways Back to Work fund, a program to assist low-income youth with summer and jobs year-round.
- Increasing funding for the Title II Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) by $30 million to $70 million, as well as increasing funding for the Title V Delinquency Prevention program and Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program.
- Reforming the HUD rental assistance programs improving oversight of market rent studies used to set subsidy increases, and using excess reserves to offset HUD payments to landlords. The budget also proposes to increase minimum rent to $75 per month for all HUD-assisted households.
- Allocating a $14 million increase in funding for refugee and entrant assistance—other programs funded under the Administration for Children and Families are funded at the FY2012 levels.
A more in-depth look at the President’s budget is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/Appendix. The introduction of the President’s budget marks the beginning of the budgeting process for this legislative year. The next step in the process is for budget committees in the Senate and the House to set overall funding levels for the upcoming fiscal year.
Payroll Tax Cut Extended
On Friday, February 17, Congress passed legislation to extend the payroll tax cut through 2012. The House passed the bill by a vote of 293-132, and the Senate approved the legislation with 60 votes in favor and 30 against. The $89.3 billion bill was signed by President Obama.
If Congress had not acted, the payroll rate would have reverted to 6.2 percent at the end of February, but the passage will maintain the rate at its current level of 4.2 percent. The legislation will be largely offset by auctioning broadcast spectrum, increasing pension payments by federal employees, and a reduction in bad-debt Medicare payments.
Other pieces of the legislation included avoiding a 27.4 percent reduction in Medicare payouts to hospitals and extending unemployment benefits while reducing the number of weeks jobless workers can receive benefits from 99 to 63 weeks.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Announces New Advocate Position
On Tuesday, February 7, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the creation of a new position as part of the Obama administration’s ongoing changes to federal deportation policies. The new position will report to the director of the Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations, and is intended to improve communications among the agency, illegal immigrants, and those who represent them.
It is expected that the role of this new public advocate position will entail meeting with community groups and immigration advocates across the country to relay their concerns directly to the enforcement agency. The new advocate position will also assist in publicizing the administration’s new deportation priorities, including its efforts to focus on immigrants who have committed major crimes. The announcement of the position was met with some controversy on Capitol Hill, with some saying that immigrants already had an ombudsman responsible for their concerns. The administration said that the position was based on pilot programs in Baltimore and Denver that showed significant reductions in deportation cases.
White House Reaches $26 Billion Settlement on Mortgages
On Thursday, February 9, President Obama joined with Attorney General Eric Holder and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan in announcing his administration’s deal with five of the nation’s leading banks to provide assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. The deal is expected to provide assistance to as many as 2 million homeowners who owe more money than their home is worth, as well as those who lost their homes due to questionable mortgage practices.
The settlement is the second-largest in federal history, behind only the 1998 tobacco settlement. Under the proposed terms, mortgage debt would be cut for about 1 million homeowners, while roughly a quarter-million more would qualify for re-financing. The roughly 750,000 people who were foreclosed on due to unsound practices would each be paid approximately $2,000 each to offset their losses.
The White House also announced programs that will recompense military families and veterans whose houses were improperly foreclosed upon. While the deals are expected to help stabilize the housing market, some experts have noted it is the first step in a long process towards resolving the long-term problem – nationwide, homeowners are collectively $700 billion “underwater” on their mortgages.
Catholic Organizations Urge a Just Farm Bill that Protects Hungry, Poor and Vulnerable People
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA, and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference have written a letter asking Congress to support a Farm Bill that provides for poor and hungry people both at home and abroad, offers effective support for those who grow our food, ensures fairness to family farmers and ranchers, and promotes stewardship of the land. Read the letter here.