Today, on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, we believe it is appropriate to acknowledge and mourn those who have lost their lives due to gun violence, and those who suffer losses.
These tragedies are close to our hearts with the recent high-profile mass shootings that have targeted elementary school children and teachers, African-American shoppers at a grocery store, and other shocking and heartbreaking occurrences, including at Oxford High School in Michigan not too long ago.
We also acknowledge the gun violence deaths that don't make the headlines but happen too often in neighborhoods and homes across the country.
In response to the problem of gun violence in our country, the U.S. bishops have repeatedly advocated for the reasonable regulation of firearms. They have voiced support for measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer. The bishops have called for protecting society from the violence associated with easy access to deadly weapons, including assault weapons. And they've also advocated for improving health services for those who have mental illnesses, among other proposals.
In our state, Michigan Catholic Conference has offered support for legislative proposals requiring gun owners to safely store and lock firearms and proscribing penalties for anyone who does not, particularly if a child gains access to the gun and displays it publicly or uses it to inflict harm on others. We've also advocated for school safety grant funding to be included in the annual state budget, including for nonpublic schools. And we've sought to protect the status of gun-free zones in our schools and churches.
There are no easy solutions to this problem, but the goal must be to cultivate a culture of life and peace. As the U.S. bishops said recently, let us "search our souls for ways that we can do more to understand this epidemic of evil and violence and implore our elected officials to help us take action."
Lawmakers are working on how to spend additional state money available for this year and next year's budget. An expansion of the EITC is up for consideration as one proposal for what to do with that money. Expanding the EITC is supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as well as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but the legislation still hasn't become law yet.
The EITC is a pro-work, anti-poverty tax credit that helps workers and families meet their basic spending needs. Senate Bill 417 would expand the tax credit from 6% to 30%, meaning more money in the pockets of the working poor who need the money.
With the prospect of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and limiting access to abortion in many places -- including Michigan - there has been a lot of fear and anger reverberating across the country.
Because of that, we want to share a message of hope with pregnant women facing difficult circumstances: The Catholic Church, through its various local agencies and support of pregnancy resource centers, is committed to helping mothers and children in any and every way possible.
In the op-ed, we said that while pregnancy and motherhood can be overwhelming, women never need to face it alone. That's a commitment the Catholic Church, local Catholic agencies and pregnancy resource centers offer to mothers.
With safe-delivery laws, adoption, pregnancy resource centers and assistance from agencies that provide necessities, every pregnant woman should know there is a community of compassion waiting to help her.
If you know someone who is scared or angry about what could happen with abortion access in this country, we encourage you to share this op-ed and help spread this message of love and hope that the Church offers to all.
If you are unable to access the op-ed online, we have provided the text of it here:
Opinion: How pro-life Catholic charities are materially supporting women, babies
As a mother of one struggling to put food on the table, Tee'aira Adams, 30, said when she became pregnant a second time, abortion was "one of the options that I considered taking."
"You don't think your child will have everything that they need," she said. "And that's why abortion is such a big deal for most families, because you don't want to bring another life into the earth if you can't provide for that life."
But she didn't follow through with that option. Instead, she gave birth to a set of twins: Emorie and Sabrina, joining their older sister, Jasmine.
What changed for Tee'aira? She attributed it to her connection to Caring Network -- a ministry dedicated to serving mothers in need and supported by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Kalamazoo -- which she first encountered during her first pregnancy.
When Tee'aira was considering abortion, Caring Network staff told her she had other options if she carried the pregnancy to term, such as adoption.
"With them saying no matter what I choose, I would still have their support, that really helped and it gave me comfort and I decided to keep my children," she said.
Caring Network is one example of how the Catholic Church, through its social service providers and parish-based ministries, accompanies mothers through pregnancy, birth and parenthood. The Church has a heart for both mother and her baby because all human life is sacred and should be protected from conception to natural death.
That heart for mothers and babies isn't just talk: Catholics are continually helping mothers in difficult situations. At Caring Network, physical needs -- food, clothes, and more -- are available to mothers. There's a shower, bathroom, kitchen, and laundry room free for use, along with a pantry with maternity and children's clothes, hygienic products, and cleaning supplies.
But support is not limited to material needs. Caring Network offers childbirth, breastfeeding and parenting classes. When Tee'aira walked into Caring Network for her first pregnancy, she said, "I didn't know what I was going to do...how do you take care of a baby?" But with their support, "I was able to learn, OK, what does it take to be a good mother?"
Many Catholic Charities across Michigan offer direct services to mothers, whether it's pregnancy counseling, baby supply pantries, or helping place children through adoption.
For Tee'aira, Caring Network has "done everything" to help meet her needs. When they arranged childcare so she could complete job training, "I cried, because I was so grateful," Tee'aira said, who is now in cosmetology school and running her own small business.
With the prospect that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade and limit access to abortion in many places - including Michigan - fear and anger has reverberated across the country.
But with safe-delivery laws, adoption, pregnancy resource centers, and assistance from agencies that provide necessities for mom and baby, every pregnant woman should know there is a community of compassion waiting to help her.
While pregnancy can be overwhelming, women never need to face it alone. That's a commitment the Catholic Church, local Catholic agencies, and pregnancy resource centers offer to mothers.
The Let MI Kids Learn petition drive said this week they're going to continue collecting signatures and submit them to the state at a later date, forgoing a June 1 deadline
The deadline was for the petition to be considered by the Legislature ahead of possible placement on the November 2022 general election. Now, the proposal will be considered for the 2024 election only if the Legislature were not to approve it once petition signatures are submitted and approved by the state and sent to the Legislature to first consider.
The campaign to get petition signatures for the education scholarship proposal will continue with the intention of eventually getting the proposal before the Legislature for lawmakers' approval, rather than having it go to the ballot.
Catholic and other nonpublic schools will be included in receiving state-provided packets about dual enrollment and other postgraduation opportunities under a new law signed by the Governor.
House Bill 4953, sponsored by Rep. David Martin (R-Davison), requires the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to provide the annual informational packet to schools. Nonpublic schools were not originally included, but at MCC's request, they were added to the bill.
The MDE packets also include information like early/middle college programs, testing centers that administer advanced placement or college-level tests, and other information pertaining to postgraduation opportunities.