Catholics have special opportunity to learn about, influence legislation

Catholics can learn about key bills before the Nebraska Legislature and make their voices heard in the political process March 21 in Lincoln during the third annual "Catholics at the Capitol."

Sponsored by the Nebraska Catholic Conference (NCC) – which represents the public policy interests of the state’s three bishops – the event begins at 9 a.m. at St. Mary Church in Lincoln and includes an opportunity to meet with state senators.

"Catholics at the Capitol provides an opportunity for Catholics to learn about the issues being handled by our Legislature, become more politically aware and influence policy as citizens of Nebraska," said Tom Venzor, NCC executive director.

One couple who already has expressed support for a bill is Jeanna and Robert Faulhaber of St. Bernard Parish in Omaha.

They testified Feb. 10 on behalf of LB506, the Compassion and Care for Medically Challenging Pregnancies Act.

Introduced that day in the Health and Human Services Committee by Sen. Joni Albrecht of Thurston, the bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to make information about perinatal hospice care available to parents whose unborn child has been diagnosed with lethal fetal abnormalities.

The Faulhabers learned at 20 weeks into their pregnancy that their daughter – whom they named Bernadette – had a defect called Trisomy 18, which causes a number of abnormalities, including heart defects.

Their doctor directed them to a perinatal hospice service – Journey to Love – offered by the archdiocese’s Respect Life Apostolate in the Center for Family Life Formation. Their case worker, Paula, provided information and support throughout the pregnancy and delivery.

"The benefits these services provide to families, both mothers and fathers, is invaluable," Jeanna said. "We both have wonderful families, but they were grieving too, so it helped to have someone who was objective to walk with us on this journey."

Although their daughter was stillborn June 3, 2014, the Faulhabers were able to hold her, keep a lock of her hair, take photographs, and receive molds of her hands and feet.

"It’s important for women and families to know there is support for them in these difficult circumstances," Robert said. "Many times in these cases, mothers may be urged to terminate the pregnancy, but sometimes that prognosis (of a lethal fetal abnormality) can be wrong."

During Catholics at the Capitol, Venzor, along with Jeff Kanger, NCC associate director for pro-life and family, and Michael McHale, NCC general counsel and policy analyst, will give an overview of that bill and other key legislation.

And keynote speakers Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and Tony Fulton, a former state senator, will suggest ways Catholics can become more politically informed and effective.

After the presentations, the event will move to the state Capitol, where people can meet with their state senators.

The event concludes with Mass at 12:10 p.m. at St. Mary Church. But after Mass, people will be invited to pray the rosary for an end to abortion in front of a Planned Parenthood facility at 5631 S. 48th St.

Preregistration is requested but not required for the event, which drew about 100 people last year and is a successor to a legislative day previously sponsored for a number of years by the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women from the three Nebraska dioceses.

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