DIOCESE—About 50 people from the Diocese of Rockford joined 50 others from the dioceses of Springfield and Belleville on March 29 to encourage their state representatives to vote no on House Bill 40.
“If passed, the bill will allow for public funding of abortions, coverage for abortions in state health plans, (and) funding of organizations that perform abortions, like Planned Parenthood,” said Jennifer Collins, director of the diocesan Life and Family Evangelization Office, in an early-March email call to action.
Rockford participants drove separately or were part of a caravan of cars or rode a bus that left from St. John Neumann Parish in St. Charles. They hailed from towns large and small across the diocese and included several students from Aquin Central Catholic Junior-Senior High School in Freeport.
Everyone met at 10 a.m. across the street from the Capitol in a conference room of the Illinois State Library, Collins explained.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield welcomed them, and Zachary Wichmann, director of government relations for the Catholic Conference of Illinois (CCI), provided training on the issue of HB-40. Their very-focused message and talking point was simple: “We do not want our tax dollars to pay for abortions.”
Dawn Behnke of the Illinois Federation for Right to Life spoke on how to talk with legislators, and she encouraged participants to form a relationship with them in the future.
The group also received tips on how to find their legislators, which was important, Collins says, due to the volume of activity in Springfield that day. Sent out in groups of four to six people, their assignment was to find their own representatives and talk with them.
Some of the representatives came out from a session or a committee to speak with them. Groups visited their legislators’ offices to meet with them or their staffs, leaving materials behind.
HB-40 passed a committee a few weeks ago and could be called for a vote any day, Collins says. “Our goal was to stop it in the House,” she says, adding that if it passes and goes to the State Senate, it almost assuredly would be passed there.
Legislators who opposed the bill were thanked and supported by their constituents in the groups, who also asked them to talk to their pro-bill colleagues about it. With those who were favorable to the bill, Collins says, “We had numerous conversations, and some were very good and actually a dialogue.”
The small groups gathered again for a debriefing and a pizza lunch provided by CCI. They headed out around 1:30 p.m., Collins says.
Overall, she says, it was a positive experience with a two-fold impact: the Rockford Diocese was “well represented” and expressed our requests; and it was energizing and formative for every person who participated.
She adds that the day “helped us feel and see that we can make a difference, that our voice matters. We have a responsibility to be in dialogue with our representatives and express our opinions.”
On Wednesday, April 5, groups from the Archdiocese of Chicago and Diocese of Joliet plan to gather in the same way in Springfield. Everyone can call their representatives or stop by their regional offices to request that they vote No to HB-40.
“And all can pray that our lawmakers don’t allow tax money to fund abortions,” Collins says.
Who is your representative? Go to the Catholic Conference of Illinois website (www.ilcatholic.org) to find out who they are and how to call them, or email them right from that site.