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Bearing the Light of Christ in the public square

The Nebraska Catholic Conference recently adopted a three-year strategic plan to advance our public policy and pro-life efforts. The plan builds on the solid foundations and immense work of the NCC over the last 50 years and it looks ahead to the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

During our strategic planning process, one of the early questions out of the gate was: what is the vision for the Nebraska Catholic Conference?

This question puzzled me. It was not the usual question I had grown accustom to: what does the Nebraska Catholic Conference do? I was used to this “what do we do” question and could answer it in my sleep (and, if you ask my wife, there’s a good chance I’ve recited it in my sleep during the middle of the legislative session): The Nebraska Catholic Conference represents the mutual public policy interests of the three Catholic bishops serving in Nebraska.

But the “vision” question that was posed in those early phases of strategic planning was about something deeper, something more existential (to steal a term from philosophy). The “vision” question was about what we aim to do and who we desire to be.

After ample deliberation, we arrived at a meaningful vision statement that I am proud of: Bearing the Light of Christ in the Public Square.

The NCC desires to bear the Light of Jesus Christ. We work so that His light may overcome the darkness of the world, a darkness that hides the injustices and inequalities which abound in this life. And we do not to hide it under a bushel basket, but we bring the Light directly into the public square for all the world, especially our lawmakers, to see.

But this statement is not just the vision for the Nebraska Catholic Conference. It is fundamentally a vision for each one of us as faithful Catholics. This vision is encapsulated in the words of Pope Benedict XVI, which have been echoed by Pope Francis: the Church “cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.”

To state this vision raises additional questions: How can each of us bear the Light of Christ in the public square? What are some concrete steps we can take to accomplish this “fight for justice”?

First, the Nebraska Legislature just convened a couple days ago. They are in the first year of their biennial legislature and will be tending to the state’s business for 90 working days. There will be no shortage of opportunities ahead of us to engage the legislative process by contacting your state senator. As these opportunities arise, we will call on you as Catholics to speak up in the “fight for justice.”

To join us in this work, go to www.necatholic.org and join our Catholic Advocacy Network. Invite your family, friends, parishioners, etc., to join us in this effort. We are here to help you engage the process in quick, easy, and meaningful ways.

Second, next Saturday (Jan. 16) is the annual Nebraska Walk for Life sponsored by our friends at Nebraska Right to Life. This annual event is Nebraska’s largest and longest-standing 1st Amendment peaceful protest. It gives each of us an opportunity to stand up for the innocent unborn children who are aborted and to stand with the mothers and fathers who experience crisis pregnancies and deserve more humane and just alternatives to choose life. The Walk begins outside the State Capitol at 10 a.m.

Before the Walk, as usual, the Nebraska Catholic Conference will host a pro-life Mass. This begins at 9 a.m. at St. Mary Church across the street from the State Capitol. This Mass is always a standing-room-only event. But because of COVID-19, we will take public health precautions to maintain social distancing. Seating will be limited in the church, and we will do our best to facilitate overflow seating. In short, it’ll be a first come, first serve event. We are also asking all attendees to wear a mask, which we will make available for those who need one.

Finally, Catholics at the Capitol is currently scheduled for Tuesday, March 9. We are still working out the details, but it is likely to take place in a virtual format because, as you guessed it, COVID-19. For now, mark your calendar so you can join us in advancing the common good in Nebraska by advocating with our state lawmakers.

In all of this, thank you for Bearing the Light of Christ in the Public Square with the Nebraska Catholic Conference!

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