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Parish Action at starting line

  • March 14, 2020

The Archdiocese of Toronto has launched a non-partisan initiative to empower parishioners in their engagements with civic leaders and to help them become active in the public square.

The objective of Parish Action is to train people in the pews on how to be “ambassadors for our faith” in engaging in the public square, said Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications with the archdiocese.

“What we’re looking at here is to do an intentional job of training people and giving them the tools to be able to deploy on issues at the local level, at the archdiocesan level, and help support them on that journey,” said MacCarthy.

In a video explaining the initiative, Cardinal Thomas Collins said a key element of the archdiocese’s pastoral plan is to evangelize the culture. Catholics have a role to play in discussions regarding social policy and should not be reluctant to “be active in the public square,” he said.

“We are citizens of society. We have a message to give, a role to play. It is important for people of faith to be active in the community.”

The first wave of tutorials went live online March 6 with an initial six videos — a series entitled A Faith in the Public Square — ranging in time from six minutes to 13 minutes, including Collins speaking on civic engagement. Others offer tips for meeting with politicians and includes a former politician’s advice on political meetings from former provincial cabinet minister and MPP John Milloy. Over time, more resources, tools and information will be added.

“These are sort of civic engagement 101,” said Mark Brosens, communications manager with the archdiocese, which will help people have more effective communications with civic leaders and help communicate a faith perspective in a secular world.

The idea behind Parish Action is to help parishioners make that first step when an issue comes up, be it something like addressing euthanasia on a national level to lobbying for a traffic light near their church on a local level. For many, it’s a daunting process to mobilize on these issues, particularly when political activism is dominated by political parties, lobbyists and special interests. But now a Parish Action team could be ready and waiting to deploy.

“We want to take away that middle step of saying you’ve got to organize and get everybody engaged in how to do all this,” said MacCarthy.

“If we can make it easier it will help amplify their voice and hopefully have an impact, whether it’s legislation or a decision that’s being made.”

MacCarthy said the assisted suicide issue will be a prime target of Parish Action, especially considering the short timeframe the government offered for online consultations earlier this year. There are already a number of resources and guides for Catholics wishing to fight Bill C-7, including the website helptheliving.ca which will help you to inform your MP of opposition to the bill.

Information is available at archtoronto.org/parishaction.

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