Gilbert - SYstemic ChangeSeveral weeks ago, I alerted you to the fact that members of Congress would be in recess between August 5 and September 9.  Since we are in the midst of that recess, I am again asking that you use this time for prayer, collaboration, and personal contact with your U.S. representatives to urge them to promote human life and dignity in our nation’s food, immigration and budget policies.

Congress is in recess
Make your voice heard on issues that affect those we serve.

Just to remind you, here are the five components to my request:

(1) Collaboration: Many members of the Vincentian Family have also been alerted to the need for these upcoming recess visits. If you know of Vincentian priests, Daughters of Charity or Ladies of Charity in your area, reach out to them and work together to get an appointment with your member of the U.S. House. You could also partner with other Catholic organizations such as Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, or others to coordinate visits. Here’s a useful website that will help you find your elected representatives and their contact information:

(2)  Personal Visits: Just as we do when called by those in need, a personal visit to your representative (or one of his/her staff) is preferable. When that is not possible, please call or write both your Representative and your Senators. Share the stories of the impact that cuts to SNAP, the budget, and delayed immigration reform are having on those you see in your service. As always, please keep the names confidential. Some other talking points are below.

(3) Personal Prayer: Tell your member of Congress that you will be praying for them. This effort of “Taking a Legislator to Prayer” is an idea that began with the Vincentian family and stays true to our spiritual foundation. We pray that our legislator will put concern for all people, but particularly the most vulnerable in our society, above partisanship when considering issues.

(4) Participate in Public Forums:

  • Write and submit an editorial or letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
  • Participate in a town hall meeting with your elected official and voice your concerns.
  • Invite your elected officials to see the good work going on at your SVdP to serve those who are struggling or living in poverty. (Remember that when speaking in public forums, you are speaking as an individual with a special
    concern for those in need, not speaking on behalf of the entire Society.)
  • Share your advocacy stories.

Here are some “talking points” that you can use with your representatives:

  • Support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is a crucial part of the Farm Bill. Cuts or structural changes to the program that will harm poor and hungry people should be opposed. SNAP helps relieve pressure on overwhelmed parishes, charities, food banks and other emergency food providers who struggle to meet the needs of hungry people.
  • Replace the sequester with a “circle of protection.”  Remind both your Representative and your Senators that the federal budget is a “moral document” with human consequences, and that they need to protect programs that help poor, unemployed and underemployed people still struggling in this economy. The sequester (automatic across the board cuts to federal programs) is hurting people living in poverty. The cuts to programs such as Head Start and Meals on Wheels are keeping families from meeting their basic needs.
  • Support bi-partisan comprehensive immigration reform.  New immigration regulations and laws should preserve and protect families, and provides a pathway to citizenship for undocumented persons living in the United States.

Now, more than ever, your voice is needed to ensure that Congress understands that it should support a budget that protects the poor and vulnerable in our communities.

Yours in St. Vincent and Blessed Frédéric,

Sheila Gilbert
National Council of the U.S. Society of St. Vincent de Paul

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