A roll of "I Voted Today" stickers await early voters at a polling station in  Washington Oct. 24, 2012. (CNS photo/Gary Cameron, Reuters)
A roll of “I Voted Today” stickers await early voters at a polling station in Washington Oct. 24, 2012. (CNS photo/Gary Cameron, Reuters)

With the general election little more than 60 days away, those who want to be informed about their civic responsibilities as Catholics won’t want to miss the upcoming “Catholics in the Public Square” event in downtown Phoenix Sept. 6.

Ron Johnson
Ron Johnson

Ron Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Catholic Conference, the public policy arm for the Catholic dioceses of Arizona, said the biannual event has drawn a capacity crowd each time it’s been held.

“It’s a really good time to reflect upon what it means to be Catholic and the issues that are most important to us,” Johnson said.

The Phoenix Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and the Knights of Columbus are hosting the event, which features Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica followed by a program at the Diocesan Pastoral Center with big-name speakers. This year’s lineup includes Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, and Maggie Gallagher, senior fellow of the American Principles Project and co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage.

Alan Sears
Alan Sears

Ongoing threats to religious liberty and the upholding of marriage as the union of one man and one woman are two concerns the U.S. bishops have addressed repeatedly. Sears and Gallagher are expected to address both, as well as other issues, in their presentations. John Garcia, public relations director for the Knights of Columbus of Arizona, said religious liberty is a top concern of the Knights.

“As a citizen, as a Catholic, and as a Knight of Columbus, I want to maintain a steadfast support for the free exercise of my religion as it’s given to us in the First Amendment of the constitution,” Garcia said. Being in the public square, he said, and learning about where the candidates stand is not just a right – it’s a duty.

Maggie Gallagher
Maggie Gallagher

“I have to be out there, being a Knight of Columbus,” Garcia said. “I need to examine our candidates who we might elect for office because they’re going to be leading us. They’re going to be speaking for me.”

Rhapsody Canepa, president of the PDCCW, voiced similar thoughts.


Catholics in the Public Square

8 a.m. Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica followed by breakfast and speakers at the Diocesan Pastoral Center.

The event is free, but registration is required. RSVP: pdccwomen@gmail.com or (602) 568-5286


“The PDCCW feels it is very important to sponsor this event to help our fellow Catholics be more informed voters and to understand how we as Catholics should be using our right to vote,” Canepa said. “We hope that many will attend this wonderful, free event and spread the word to their family and friends.”

Sears, in a phone call to The Catholic Sun, said his talk would focus on the battle for rights of conscience. He said the health care mandate, known as “Obamacare,” is only the most visible of a host of concerns the ADF and others have in that regard.

He then cited the examples of those who work in the bridal industry, such as photographers and bakers.

“They’re being deliberately targeted and told that they must use their talents to help in the redefinition of marriage as a condition of remaining in business,” Sears said. “One of the key questions at this moment in legal history that is going to be dramatically impacted by what Catholics do or do not do in the public square is whether or not we’re allowed to act on our faith in public.”

“Catholics in the Public Square,” a booklet of the same name penned by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, will also be distributed at the Sept. 6 event. Over 250,000 copies of the booklet have been distributed since it was first published in 2006.

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