Catholics Young and Old are Called to Faithful Citizenship
As the Election 2004 season heats up, so too does interest in the U.S. Bishops call to the Catholic community to exercise our civic responsibilities and engage in prayer, reflection and discussion about the critical moral and justice issues facing our nation and world. In their statement for this election year, Faithful Citizenship: A Catholic Call to Political Responsibility, the Bishops remind us that the values of our faith should be our guide to public life, and the decisions we make as citizens about whom to vote for and what policies are enacted have important moral and ethical aspects.
Since most (or all) of our students are too young to vote, we may think they are outside of the Bishop's challenge. But -- the Faithful Citizenship kit sent to all U.S. parishes includes creative teaching ideas and activities geared to younger and older children, and to adults. Suggestions cover sample lesson plans, poster contests, discussion questions and more to help Catholics of all ages understand and practice the Church's teaching on civic responsibility, Catholic Social Teaching, and the role of our faith in the political process. For details, see the Ideas for Catholic School Principals and Teachers" or the "Ideas for Directors of Religious Education and Catechists" sent with your parish's kit, or download them at www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship.
Among specific activities suggested for parish Religious Education and Catholic schools in the Faithful Citizenship parish packet, we highlight the following:
1) Sponsor a poster contest, or have students draw pictures to illustrate the theme "Love Your Neighbor: Vote in 2004." Display the posters/drawings in the parish hall or school.
2) Copy and use the children's "secret code" activity page found at www.usccb.org/faithfulcitizenship.
3) Ask the class to identify one election issue being covered in the news. Have them draw pictures illustrating how Catholics might respond to the issue in light of our faith.
4) Morning prayers, school liturgies and opening/closing prayers for catechetical sessions can include special intentions for: those whose lives are at risk; those suffering from injustice; political leaders who make decisions with great impact; and for all those who will be voting in November.
5) Catechists and religion teachers can weave the topic of Catholic civic responsibility into other lessons: 1) a discussion of the Corporal Works of Mercy can explore why people need our mercy, how public policies affect them, and why it is important for us to help shape a society with more justice and compassion; 2) classes on the Trinity can recall that we are created as social beings in God's image, and discuss how we then have both a right and duty as Christians to take part in social, economic and political life.
6) Many R.E. and Catholic school programs do a good job of involving students in service to those in need. But, many of these do not as effectively involve the students and their families in advocacy and political responsibility education. Young people can learn a great deal from attending "lobby days" sponsored by their dioceses or state Catholic conferences, or from researching and writing letters to lawmakers about justice and peace issues. For ongoing information about advocacy opportunities in the Diocese of Joliet, visit the Voices for Justice section of this website.