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As we take time to celebrate Juneteenth this year, I hope it provides the opportunity for deepening our understanding of God’s desire for unity and peace in society among all people. And, in doing so, may Juneteenth help us further denounce the subtle and not so subtle forms of racism that still hold our country in the bondages of sin.

Religious Freedom Week is right around the corner (June 22-29). It is a great time of the year to more intently pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom, which is our “first, most cherished liberty.”

As always, we encourage you to pay attention to all races that show up on your ballot. Inform your conscience, do your homework on the candidates, and exercise your right to vote. And, then, like the NCC, let loose and go crazy on election night in November by watching the results flash across the electronic screen(s) of your choice!

Catholic schools must be places where parents are known, respected, and valued. Their input helps shape the community. Likewise, parents must engage and hold the school accountable to the Church’s mission. As a Catholic school educator for 20 years, I can attest that our schools live lean and mean; they need a little bit of everything to run well. Parents should present whatever gifts they have, and schools should put them good use!

On March 29, the Holy See’s Congregation of Catholic Education blessed us with the publication of “The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialog” (called “The Identity” in this article from this point forward). This document is filled with rich and important teachings. In this column I will lay a foundational summary of the document. In my next column I will share ideas of to implement its teachings in our Catholic school communities.

As we have continually encouraged Catholics across the state, please pay attention to these races, do your research, inform your conscience, and take the opportunity to vote in these races, as well as other state and local races on your ballot.

Thank you to our amazing teachers and administrators. They’ve navigated two historically difficult years with grace, courage, and dignity. When you see them, thank them and let them know they are in our prayers. It is my honor to represent their inspiring work.

The primary elections are very easy to overlook, especially in a mid-term election when there is no presidential election on the ballot. But there are several reasons why the primary elections are important, particularly this go-around.

We are, of course, deeply disappointed that the bill did not pass. But we are not discouraged, because God rewards hard work, and the pro-life cause is eminently just. We will be back at the very first opportunity to reintroduce and fight for legislation that will protect all unborn children from the violence of abortion in the state of Nebraska. And in God’s good time, we will prevail.

It’s that season, once again, where candidates across the state are vying for our support to serve in public office. Whether somebody is running for the proverbial city dog catcher or President of the United States or anything else in between, elections matter. The people who serve us in public office make decisions that impact us in any number of ways, some smaller and others more substantial. They have influence on those around them, including other public officials in different elected bodies, as well as community and business leaders. Not to mention, any number of candidates who successfully run for lower public offices end up running for higher public offices.

The week of April 4 will be a historic week for the Nebraska Legislature and the pro-life movement. It will mark first round of debate on LB933, the Human Life Protection Act, which would protect preborn babies from the moment of conception if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned. This legislation was introduced by pro-life champion Sen. Joni Albrecht and personally prioritized by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Hilgers.

First things first, if you have not yet contacted your State Senator about LB933, the Human Life Protection Act, which would protect preborn babies from the moment of conception once Roe v. Wade is overturned (hopefully this summer), please do it now.

The Nebraska Legislature will soon debate and vote on LB933, the Human Life Protection Act, and your action is needed now.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s toll is beyond measure. Counted among the toll is the pandemic’s impact on education. The negative ramifications on students is far-reaching and will be long-lasting, unless serious steps are taken to assist children with education loss recovery.

The Nebraska Legislature has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is sitting on just over $1 billion in federal COVID-19 economic stimulus and pandemic relief money to distribute throughout the state.

Last week, the three major pro-life bills received their public hearings in the Judiciary Committee. The hearings lasted over six hours total and brought out countless pro-life and pro-abortion advocates.

We need something more fundamental: we need laity to proactively build the basic foundations and architecture of a just society. The Lord is calling the laity to this fundamental, constant, and vigilant work. To quote Pope Benedict XVI: “As citizens of the State, [laity] are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly[.]”

As the State Legislature considers how to best allocate these historic funds, we will be advocating that state senators, consistent with Catholic social teaching, retain a preferential concern for the poor and other populations, such as refugees, who have been most adversely affected by the pandemic.

It’s that time of year for you to register and join the Nebraska Catholic Conference for our annual Catholic advocacy day, Catholics at the Capitol. This year’s Catholics at the Capitol lineup is promising and will equip you to be an informed and faithful citizen.

Though the yearly memorial of Roe brings with it sadness beyond measure as we consider the 63 million preborn human lives lost to abortion, we rejoice knowing Roe’s days are numbered. Roe, like slavery, will ultimately go down as a stain on our nation’s history.

As with any “short” 60-day session, there are many events taking place simultaneously. Bill introductions. Bill analysis. Floor debate. Committee hearings. Advocacy. Negotiations. There is no shortage of excitement, even if there is a shortage of sleep for those closely working at and with the Unicameral. Given so many things taking place, I thought it’d be good to give you some bite-size samplings of what is taking place.

The United States is at a pivotal point in its history. Deliberations for the historic Supreme Court case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization have spurred a national conversation about the future of abortion. Many states, including Nebraska, are reckoning with their abortion laws.

Take action. Your advocacy will be critical this legislative session. Stay in the know by joining the Catholic Advocacy Network of Nebraska (CANN). Through CANN e-mails, we will provide regular updates on the major issues taking place at the Capitol.

Deeply embedded in our political situation, structures of sin create obstacles to relief for the poor and vulnerable, the immigrant, the unborn, the un- and under-educated, the prisoner, among others.

There is no controversy over when human life begins. The truth of it is denied to shield pro-abortion ideological belief from examination of the logical consequences.

Roe may well be, at long last, on its way out. But two things are essential to remember: first, the reality of human weakness; and second, the notorious unreliability of anything said in these proceedings to predict how the Court will rule in six or seven months. In the interim, please persevere in prayer, every day, for these justices. God grant them wisdom and courage, and His will be done.

This legislative session will be marked by many great issues. The legislature will deal with major topics like pro-life, marriage and family, human sexuality, education and school choice, anti-poverty, criminal justice and juvenile justice reform, housing, immigration, among so many other important matters.

In the coming days, the Supreme Court will have the unique opportunity to alter the course of America’s history with abortion, which has already violated the human dignity of 62,000,000 preborn children, and millions of mothers and fathers. Opening arguments for Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization are scheduled for Dec. 1.

Politics is not simply about striving for what might be useful or relevant in the moment, but it is about striving for what is good in the end. And such a question should also make us consider: what is “good” in the end?

May we strive to establish a society that keeps its eyes on Christ, the One Who heals us of our divisions, iniquities, and rancor, and makes us a people of justice and peace.

The Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE) two-year attempt at state-wide comprehensive sexuality education standards was a divisive disaster. However, the state government’s foremost educational organization did unintentionally teach valuable lessons along the way.

The eruption caused by the Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE) Health Standards now reverberates in local and national media outlets that are exposing hundreds of internal NDE emails.

One need not look very far into the political realities of our day to realize that there is a fundamental and adequate anthropology lacking in our public square. The unborn and the poor are discarded. The sick and the elderly are tossed aside. Human sexuality is conceived of as fluid and malleable. Marriage is redefined to mean everything and, therefore, nothing. Parental freedoms are usurped by the state. The list goes on.

In sum: our existence is pure gift, for which we owe gratitude. We are made in God’s image, therefore bearing great dignity, and are destined for unity with Him, which is in our power to accept. We are a unity of body and soul, neither of which is accidental. We are individual persons, but we are also radically dependent at every moment on God, others, and creation, and we have duties to all of them. We know who we are and where we ought to be going.

There are five categories of action that current pro-life leaders should take to embrace and develop the next generation of leaders, our young pro-life activists: recruitment, delegating responsibilities, development and training, welcoming new ideas, and creating leadership opportunities.

On Oct. 1, the Feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Catholic Church in the United States begins its annual Respect Life campaign. This campaign helps Catholics “understand and value the gift of human life and help build a culture that cherishes and protects it.”

In this year’s Respect Life Month Statement, Archbishop Joseph Naumann—who also happened to be this year’s pro-life banquet keynote speaker—says: “While attacks against human life seem to grow ever more numerous and callous, we know that Christ has conquered sin and death.” The archbishop continues, “Jesus asks us to be as leaven in the world, to bring His light to the darkness.”

It’s moments like the anniversary of 9/11 and the heroic witness of ordinary people like Todd Beamer that help us renew our patriotism. It’s these moments that cut through all the division and rancor that daily poison our politics and broader community life and redirect us to a healthy and reasonable love of country.

As people of faith, we know there’s no debate. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: Parents and guardians are the primary educators of their children (no. 2223), and we demand the government honor this.

“Civilize It” seeks to charitably meet people where they are at, create a culture of human encounter between persons, and from that position strive toward understanding the Truth and how we can best strive for the common good.

This is why, as Catholics, we must pay attention to the law. It is constantly influencing the direction of life. The question is whether it is influencing it in the direction of the common or toward some otherwise adverse end.

It’s that time of year for you, your family, your friends, your parishioners, your neighbors, your enemies, and anybody else you can think of to register for this year’s Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet and Conference, which you can do at www.necatholic.org.

The Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) released their highly anticipated second draft of Health Standards July 29. Of particular interest is the Human Growth and Development portion of these standards. It is in this area that the NDE embedded troubling, ideological, and harmful concepts in the first draft.

In just under two months (Sept. 17 and 18), the Nebraska Catholic Conference will be hosting our annual Bishops’ Pro-Life Banquet & Conference. After hosting last year’s event virtually via Zoom, we are thrilled to host an in-person gathering this year.

In the time of constant division, a 9-0 victory for religious liberty at the Supreme Court is not unnoticed and is an important building block for furthering protections of the 1st Amendment. It is something worth celebrating during this week when we reflect on the meaning of our country and its future.

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