On Monday and Tuesday of this week, the bishops of our state and delegations from each of our eight dioceses traveled to Albany for our annual Public Policy Day. We had a bus which started at the Park and Ride near St. John Fisher College, continued to Geneva and went on to Albany. Southern Tier participants traveled in private vehicles.
The basic purpose of the trip is to present our positions on matters of public policy and current and pending legislation to the governor and members of the state Legislature. Among the priorities we identified this year were support of poor families, health-care reform, support for Catholic-school education, concern for the protection of the unborn, opposition to embryonic stem-cell research, and continued work on the Rockefeller Drug Laws.
The bishops of the state met with Gov. Paterson on Monday from 3 to 4 p.m. After greetings and introductions, a bishop introduced each of our priorities and highlighted the interests and concern that we bring to the issue. After each presentation Gov. Paterson expressed his points of view on the issues we presented. It was our first such exchange with him. We agreed on some issues (e.g., support for poor families) and disagreed on others (e.g., abortion and related issues). Whether we come to agreement or not, I think that it is important to continue such conversations.
On Tuesday, people from the eight dioceses paid calls on their legislators and shared with them the same concerns and cares that the bishops presented to Gov. Paterson. I had a chance to speak with several representatives from our group. They all seemed quite pleased with the conversations they had with the legislators. And, I know from conversations with legislators over the years that visits to their offices by well-informed constituents carry significant weight with them.
An important part of the day is the gathering of delegates from all eight dioceses for Mass and lunch. I think that all participants find it encouraging to be with so many others who share their values and are willing to offer their time, talent and energy to express them.
We were all mindful during the plenary gathering that this would be Cardinal Egan’s last year with us as Archbishop of New York. Rick Barnes, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, expressed to Cardinal Egan on behalf of all of us our gratitude and good wishes as he moves into an exciting new phase of his life and ministry.
The Public Policy Days that we celebrated in Albany this week are important and do much good over time. But I take this occasion to remind you that similar efforts go on year-round through the good offices of the New York State Catholic Conference staff. They are constantly at work representing our interests in matters that are of great importance to us — life issues, health care, education and human services.
If you would like to know more about the structure and work of the conference, you can reach their Web site at www.nyscatholic.org.
I renew my good wishes to you for a blessed Lent and promise you my continued prayers.
Peace to all.