What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: March 8, 2007
The Georgia State Legislature last Wednesday bestowed an honor on all Catholics in Georgia that I do not believe had ever previously been afforded. Last Wednesday was Catholic Day at the Georgia Legislature. I was able to thank the entire legislative body in both chambers for the gracious honor imparted, not only to Bishop Boland and to me as the Shepherds of the two Catholic dioceses in the state of Georgia, but in the name of the nearly 900,000 Catholics living in this sovereign state. I thanked them in your names, and I prayed with all of the members of the Statehouse for the work that they accomplish for all Georgia citizens.
We Catholics in Georgia are a growing population. In the past 20 years, in particular, the number of Catholics has increased well beyond what anyone might have thought possible only a short time ago. We have come here from many different parts of our country and from many other nations and for a wide variety of reasons—climate, job opportunities, and to be close to loved ones who may have settled here before us.
Catholics have made and continue to make many noteworthy contributions to Georgia and for that we all should be proud. Georgia was not always seen as having a large or an important Catholic population, and we were not always viewed in such a positive light by many of our fellow Georgians. Thus Wednesday was something of a watershed moment as the Legislature recognized and applauded the Catholic community here in Georgia.
The opportunity to speak to the entire assembly of legislators was also an occasion for me to underscore many of the values that we Catholics share with men and women of good will throughout our state: We stand for the dignity of the human person—at each and every moment of life and even those within the womb awaiting the first breath of life. We stand in solidarity with the poor, the immigrant, and the disabled—the very people that on one occasion Jesus Himself referred to as the least of His brethren. We Catholics care about justice for all people—those who are the victims of crime and even for those who are perpetrators of crime—each must live in a community where justice is the highest virtue that guides us and governs even the assignment of punishments for criminal behavior. We want the state to offer educational and health opportunities for our children and yet in doing so never to impose moral or ethical decisions that ignore the primary rights of parents to shape and form their own youngsters.
We Georgia Catholics are not alone in holding these values, and we will gladly work with men and women of other Faiths and even those people who do not profess any Faith but who see the wisdom and value of such initiatives and policies.
Last Wednesday was a very proud day for Catholics in Georgia, and I hope that it will serve as an incentive for all citizens of this great state to become more involved with the work of government, which is always best when it is “of the people, by the people, and for the people!”