UP Catholic 02 24 2017 E Edition Page 4

D oes this action or policy serve the well-being of people? What an import- ant question to ask before decisions are made, at all levels of society. Pope Francis has written that the goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, and the ultimate test of a nation is how it treats the most vulnerable, not just those with influ- ence or money (Pope Francis, 6/17/13). At the state level, this very question guides the work of Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC), the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. In January, a new legislative session began at the State Capitol, and in response, MCC issued its biennial publication, A Blueprint for the Com- mon Good. This platform serves as the organizations guiding advocacy prin- ciples for the coming two-year period. Politics should not simply pro- vide an avenue for elected leaders to exercise power. Yes, elected officials have important responsibilities and a number of opportunities to contribute to change. In that capacity, officials also have an obligation to defend the dignity of all. At the same time, each person must also stand up to make their voice heard, helping to adopt the most beneficial policies for all. By engaging with the three branches that impact public policy at the state level, especially the Legislature, MCC asks the relevant questions: Is the State of Michigan serving people well? Are these policies respecting peoples inherent dignity? What more can Michigan be doing to meet the needs of the marginalized? The Catholic Church has a rich history of action in the public realm, both through her charitable services and her commitment to social justice. Informed by the Churchs teachings and action, MCC advocates for the needs of the most vulnerable, includ- ing the unborn, the elderly, the sick, the disabled, the refugee, and the unemployed. In 2017 and 2018, MCC will work on a variety of issues, guid- ed by A Blueprint for the Common Good, to stand up on issues of hu- man life and dignity, the preferential option for the poor, religious liberty, children and families, education, health care, restorative justice, and immigration and refugees. MCC will also address federal policies with the Michigan Congressional delegation at the request of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). As lawmakers begin to consider legislation and the state budget for the upcoming year, MCC is committed to advocating for adequate funding to protect student safety at all schools, to support the needs of low-income families, to promote alternatives to abortion for women in crisis pregnan- cies, and to preserve programs that help Michiganders access health care. MCC also anticipates the possibility of continued work on criminal justice reform, to encourage genuine rehabil- itation and lower recidivism. As these issuesand othersare discussed and debated, policymakers benefit from the diverse perspectives of those who send candidates into office. Often, individuals feel unequipped to participate in community discus- sions, and in this divisive climate, the atmosphere feels all the more intimi- dating. But one does not have to work professionally on certain issues to care about the dignity of all people, whether that is in a mothers womb, within the foster care system, in a health clinic, at work, or in prison. It simply starts with a desire to help and serve in the spirit of the common good. Does this action or policy serve the well-being of people? Catholics, and others of goodwill, are invited to play a part in helping that answer to be yes. The Word from Lansing is a regu- lar column for Catholic news outlets and is written by Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) President and CEO Paul A. Long. Michigan Catholic Conference is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in this state. 4 February 24, 2017 THE U.P. CATHOLIC COMMENTARY www.upcatholic.org A Blueprint for the Common Good j THE WORD FROM LANSING Paul A. Long O ver Christmas, two of my family members were talking about a mutu- al friend who, though chronically ill, routinely does heroic acts of kindness for others. Though they get exasperated with her when she overextends herself, they realize that caring for others is what makes life meaningful. I thanked God that these women are kind enough to support their friend through both good times and bad, helping her to live a full life. This incident came to mind as I read Pope Fran- cis message for the World Day of the Sick (Feb. 11, 2017), in which he reflects on St. Bernadettes re- lationship to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Lady spoke to Berna- dette as one person to another, he says, treating her with great respect, even though she was poor and sickly. This reminds us that every person is, and always re- mains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life. In light of the expanding legal- ization of assisted suicide, Pope Francis insights are invaluable. Studies have shown that the major- ity of people who support assisted suicide do so because they fear the loss of personal autonomy and dignity in their final days. Suffer- ing, they say, is meaningless and should have no place in the hu- man experience. It seems that the thought of having to go on living when faced with serious disability or illness is becoming unacceptable in our post-Christian society. What I find most tragic in this exaltation of independence and personal choice is that this attitude denies the beautiful reality that we are made for community. Created in the image and likeness of God, who is a Trinity of Persons, we are inherently relational, not autono- mous. Mutual dependence, rather than independence, is the true Gospel value, and so we should not be ashamed when we need the as- sistance of others. Our weakness or infirmity can be a graced opportu- nity for those who help us, as well as for ourselves, for as Saint John Paul II so often repeated, we can only find fulfillment through the sincere gift of self to others. This is why Pope Francis is ask- ing us to honor the sick by helping them to share their gifts and abili- ties. Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance, he writes, but who have a gift of their own to share with others. St. Bernadette turned her frailty into strength by serving the sick and offering her life for the sal- vation of humanity. The fact that Mary asked her to pray for sinners, Pope Francis writes, reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life. Social media has allowed me to become acquainted with numer- ous heroes who go on giving in the midst of tremendous suffering. If you are looking for inspiration just google Zach Sobiech or Lauren Hill, young adults who made a dif- ference in the world while dying of cancer; J.J. Hanson, president of the Patients Rights Action League, who triumphed over a brain tumor; or O.J. Brigance, a former profes- sional football player who inspires thousands though he is completely paralyzed by Lou Gehrigs disease. I am sure that you have unsung heroes in your midst in the person of sick, disabled or elderly persons who enrich your life despite their own trials. This year as we cele- brate the World Day of the Sick, lets honor these everyday heroes by letting them know that we ad- mire them and are there for them in their moments of need, and by asking them to pray for us! Sister Constance Veit is director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor. The sick, our everyday heroes GUEST COLUMN Sister Constance Veit POLITICS SHOULD NOT SIMPLY PROVIDE AN AVENUE FOR ELECTED LEADERS TO EXERCISE POWER. YES, ELECTED OFFICIALS HAVE IMPORTANT RESPONSIBILITIES AND A NUMBER OF OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO CHANGE. IN THAT CAPACITY, OFFICIALS ALSO HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO DEFEND THE DIGNITY OF ALL. CREATED IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD, WHO IS A TRINITY OF PERSONS, WE ARE INHERENTLY RELATIONAL, NOT AUTONOMOUS. MUTUAL DEPENDENCE, RATHER THAN INDEPENDENCE, IS THE TRUE GOSPEL VALUE, AND SO WE SHOULD NOT BE ASHAMED WHEN WE NEED THE ASSISTANCE OF OTHERS. Traveling in the U.P.? Find parish listings at www.dioceseofmarquette.org

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