May 4, 2018  
 Inside this issue
  Welcome to May!  
 
This week I had the privilege of visiting the Catholic Community Service Farmworker Center in Mt. Vernon.  The Center, led by Sister Susan Wells SNJM, a knowledgeable and passionate advocate for immigrants, supports the immigrant farmworker community in the Skagit Valley with language training, housing and other support services.   Meeting directly with Dreamers and other local immigrants of limited means gave me a new perspective on the challenges these sisters and brothers face every day.  While we may not all have the opportunity to visit the Farmworker Center, we do all have the opportunity to support this community and one such way is through advocacy on key immigration legislation in Congress.  See below for how you can get involved.
 
Also below is information about the national bishops' focus on religious liberty through the upcoming Religious Freedom Week.  Because this important topic has implications in a number of different ways, it is important for all Catholics to have even more information about the need to defend religious liberty.  Challenges to religious freedom are being felt right here in the state of Washington.  Please see the update below and related resources.
 
Welcome to May!  During this month of special devotion to our Blessed Mother, may her intercessions bring protection and many blessings to you and your loved ones!
 
Joe Sprague, Executive Director
 

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  Protect Dreamers - Action Alert on DREAM and USA Acts  
 

Without a legislative solution, Dreamers' futures remain uncertain and they live in fear of deportation. Congress should take urgent action to protect these young, undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. They grew up and went to school here. Some do not even speak the language of their birth country. As Catholics, we believe in the life and dignity of every human person and are, therefore, called to respect youth who had no choice about being brought to the U.S.

The USCCB is supporting two key bills that will help address this critical situation.  Click here to send a message to your U.S. Representative to protect Dreamers by supporting HR 4796, the USA Act of 2018, and HR 3440, the DREAM Act of 2017.

    
 

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  Religious Freedom Week - June 22-29  
 
On May 1, an attack on a mosque in Nigeria killed at least 27 people. The same day, attackers killed at least 15 people, including a priest, in the Central African Republic. These two acts of violence emphasize the importance of protecting religious freedom.  In very different ways, religious liberties are facing fresh challenges in the United States. The U.S. Bishops are launching a renewed effort for Catholics to better understand the need to protect religious freedom in our country and throughout the world, including sponsoring Religious Freedom Week.
 
The theme for this year's Religious Freedom Week (June 22 - 29) is "Serving Others in God's Love." Religious freedom is necessary if Catholics are to have the space to continue to serve in areas like education, adoption and foster care, health care, and migration and refugee services.
 
A major area of concern is the strain on the foster care system caused by the opioid crisis which is driving more children into foster care and adoption. The closure of religious child welfare service providers in several states, including California, is exacerbating the problem. One potential solution is the federal Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (HR 1881 / S 811) that would protect the religious liberty of child welfare service providers, including adoption and foster care agencies. To raise your voice, visit the USCCB Action Alert Center. For background information on the bill from the USCCB, click here.
 
Through prayer, education, and public action during Religious Freedom Week, the Church will promote the importance of preserving the essential right of religious freedom, for now and the future, for Catholics and for those of all faiths. Visit the Religious Freedom Week website to review the resources available for your parish.
 

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  Farm Bill Update  
  The U.S. House is discussing the merits of the proposed 2018 Farm Bill, legislation critical for poverty-related food support programs, before voting on it as early as next week. The Senate is working on their own version of a farm bill that is expected to be released later this month. 
 
On April 18, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and other Catholic organizations wrote a joint letter to the Committee on Agriculture in response to the House Farm Bill and continues to work to improve the bill's effectiveness for low-income families. The letter concluded: "This is a crucial time for our nation to put poor and hungry people first, support small and moderate-sized family farms, promote sustainable stewardship of the land, and help vulnerable farmers and rural communities both at home and in developing countries."
 

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  Rejoice and Be Glad:Pope Issues New Invitation to Holiness  
 
 
Last month, the Vatican released Pope Francis' third Apostolic Exhortation, Rejoice and Be Glad (Gaudete et Exsultate). The Holy Father stated that his "modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities." (no. 2) Pope Francis focused most of the document on the Beatitudes and the Last Judgment challenge of Christ Jesus: "whatsoever you did to the least ..." Mt. 25:40. "We are called to be holy by living our lives with love and bearing witness in everything we do ... Be holy by working for the common good ..." (no. 14) You can find the text of the entire Exhortation on the Vatican website.
 

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  Did you know...  
  ...that there are over one million Catholics and nearly 300 parishes and missions in Washington State?

                                                           St. James Cathedral, Seattle
 
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