The annual March 12 Public Policy Day sponsored by the New York State Catholic Conference brings to Albany delegations from the eight dioceses of New York state. Their purpose is to lobby their respective legislators about public-policy issues and legislative activity. Each year we highlight five or six issues drawn from a large pool of concerns. If our advocacy has a consistent theme it is concern for the poor, the vulnerable and those who otherwise would have no voice in public affairs.
In addition to participating in the events of March 12, the bishops of the state gather on March 11 with leaders of New York state government. It is the custom to meet with the governor, and we did meet with Gov. Cuomo this year, and for the first time in my memory we had meetings with the Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver and the president of the Senate, Dean Skelos. In those meetings we shared our points of view on the same issues raised by our delegation with their representatives. They had to do with inmates, the unborn, farmworkers, immigrants and school children.
I was pleased with the meetings. In my opinion they were honest, respectful and cordial. There were certainly differences of opinion expressed; it is clear that in some issues, e.g., abortion, our divisions are quite deep. But I do think that we were able to look beyond those differences to find some common ground upon which to shape legislation that will open more constructive paths. I do hope that that will be the case as we move forward.
One of the pleasant moments I had in Albany was the opportunity to chat with Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy. He was at Gov. Cuomo’s side during our meeting. I had not seen the former mayor of Rochester for awhile and was delighted to spend some time with an old friend. He looks very well and seems genuinely enthusiastic about his role in state government. He is thoroughly engaged in working with the governor. When Bob sketched out some of his responsibilities and ran me through his recent itinerary, I wanted to sit down and rest after just hearing about it.
The Public Policy Day has been part of our agenda for many years. On the drive home from Albany I remembered some of the outstanding public servants I have met in that time. They have a profoundly important task to protect the rights of and to serve the growth, dignity, peace and freedom of the citizens of our state. It’s not an easy task. They must negotiate sometimes substantial differences of opinion among their peers and constituents. They must carry on in boom times and during recessions; in peace and war — and all in the context of our constantly changing and increasingly complex environment.
I encourage you to pray daily for your legislators; I encourage you to pray for them with special awareness that 2012 is an election year. May they all serve with a solid commitment to honor life in all stages from conception until natural death; and may they always think first of the impact of their decisions on the poor and vulnerable among us.
I hope that your Lent has been a blessed one and that you will remain generous in your prayer for our catechumens and candidates as they prepare for the Easter feast.
Peace to all.