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Catholic Days at the Capitol goes virtual

Pandemic bright side: More people can participate in Feb. 2-3 events

ORLANDO | Within the last 10 months, the Catholic faithful have witnessed how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Catholic Church.

Making sure the faithful do not feel spiritually abandoned, the Church has adapted to continue to minister to Catholics in its communities. And while some annual events have been canceled, many others have gotten a virtual facelift to continue.

For instance, Masses continue to be livestreamed, and conferences, such as the Florida Culture of Life Conference this past November, showed speakers trading a podium for a chair behind a video camera.

At the beginning of February, another annual event hosted by the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops will also get a virtual facelift. Catholic Days at the Capitol— to be held Feb. 2-3, 2021 — is an annual event where participants travel to Tallahassee to learn about legislative issues that concern the Church and Catholics, and get to meet face-to-face with their own local legislators.

Instead of holding the event in person, the conference is going virtual, and it hopes doing so will allow even more participation from Catholics from across the state.

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“To ensure the health and safety of participants in light of the coronavirus, the 2021 Catholic Days at the Capitol will be a virtual event. Previous attendees as well as those who have been unable to attend this annual event in Tallahassee are urged to take this opportunity to participate virtually,” according to a statement by the Conference, which serves as the lobbying arm for Florida’s bishops. “During these unprecedented times, through innovation and technology, Catholics can continue to bring their values and voices to political life to promote and protect human life and dignity.”

The conference events will include prayers and Masses led and celebrated by Florida’s bishops, an interactive question and answer session, and diocesan breakout sessions to discuss upcoming issues to be debated in Florida’s House and Senate, as well as assignments of virtual meetings with local legislators. All of these events will be held virtually and will be recorded and available to view by registered participants later in the day or evening if desired.

“The legislative session is still taking place, and our voices are still needed as legislators continue to file and consider bills that impact human life and dignity and the ability of all Floridians to flourish,” the conference said in a statement to the Florida Catholic. “Most lawmakers are open to holding virtual meetings with their constituents, whether over video or telephone.”

The event will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, with a call to order by Michael B. Sheedy, executive director of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, and an opening prayer by Bishop William Wack, CSC, of Pensacola-Tallahassee.

Participants will then listen to a briefing on legislative priorities, which will include a list of three to four specific issues and proposed bills that the conference would like participants to discuss with their local legislators. This is followed by an interactive question and answer session and diocesan breakout sessions, followed by a blessing and closing prayer offered by Bishop John Noonan of Orlando.

“The diocesan breakout sessions are similar to those held when Catholic Days is an in-person event,” explained Michele Taylor, associate for communications for the conference. “Each of the seven diocesan coordinators handles it a little bit differently, but generally it is a time to discuss the schedule of legislator meetings and who will fill what role, such as leading the group, speaking about each of the policy issues, and taking notes during the meeting.”

Virtual meetings with legislators will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 2-3. Just as with in-person meetings that occurred in the past, participants will not meet virtually with all legislators who represent counties of each diocese — such as the three counties of Miami, the 10 counties of Venice, the five counties of Palm Beach and the nine counties of Orlando. Instead, they will be broken up as constituents who will meet with legislators who directly represent them.

Virtual activities will continue on Wednesday, Feb. 3, including a rosary with the bishops of Florida and a Defensor Vitae award presentation to a legislator, remarks by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and closing prayer by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach.

The event will conclude with the annual Red Mass of the Holy Spirit, to be celebrated at 6 p.m. Feb. 3, by Bishop Wack at the Co-Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Tallahassee. The Mass will be livestreamed for Catholic Days participants and all others who wish to virtually attend.

Although not a face-to-face event, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said participation in the event is just as crucial as in years past. The conference also encourages Catholic Days participants and others to reach out to their lawmakers by sending email messages through the Florida Catholic Advocacy Network.

“Holding the event virtually is not our preference, but it is necessary as we all try to stay healthy during this pandemic,” the conference stated. “We can look also to what opportunities a virtual event might bring this year, such as the ability to participate remotely by those who previously were unable to attend due to travel and time away from work or home. It opens Catholic Days up to a lot more Catholics who are looking to put their faith into action and answer the call to political responsibility. Practicing faithful citizenship is a year-round obligation, even during a pandemic.”

FIND OUT MORE

  • Those who wish to participate in Catholic Days at the Capitol, Feb. 2-3, 2021, are asked to complete a registration form to attend online events by Jan. 22. A $20 donation is suggested for each individual or household participating.
  • Individuals who wish to participate in legislator meetings must participate in the virtual legislative briefing Tuesday, Feb. 2. For more information, visit https://flaccb.org/cdac.
  • For more information contact your archdiocesan coordinator: Rebecca Brady 954-981-2922 | [email protected].

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