By Abraham Joven
SACRAMENTO—On March 23, the Diocese of San Bernardino sent a delegation of 16 youth to participate in the annual Catholic Youth Advocacy Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento.
The event is arranged by the California Catholic Conference and is intended to give youth a taste for public policy advocacy while also providing further catechesis on Catholic Social Teaching.
The Diocesan delegation was from Corpus Christi, Corona; Our Lady of Guadalupe, San Bernardino; St. Louis, Cathedral City; St. Mary, Fontana and Notre Dame High School.
The day began with Mass, with Notre Dame High School Chaplain, Father Paul Schmidt, S.V.D., presiding. Following, the entire group of high school-aged students from across the state sat and listened to student-led presentations regarding the key pieces of legislation on which they would be advocating; real bills tackling homelessness, immigration, poverty, abortion, and education. Next, the students set out to meet their legislators and advocate for their bills. The groups from Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Mary’s were privileged to be brought down to the State Senate floor for a photo with Senator Connie Leyva, after meeting with her.
The youth from the Diocese even provided a direct witness of faith on one of the issues for which they were advocating – hunger. After lunch, the group from St. Louis Parish, which was accompanied by Father Luis Guido, their pastor, suggested to the event organizer that extra lunches be given to the homeless they encountered outside. The idea was approved and the group handed out the extra lunch containers.
They then met with Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and advocated for laws that would help alleviate the cycle of poverty/homelessness, driving home a point made in their training leading up to the event: it is important to address both the immediate need and to dismantle the systemic issues that allow it.
Catholic Youth Advocacy Day was a collaborative effort between the Office of Ministry with Young Catholics and the Office of Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants. As the Director of Advocacy and Justice for Immigrants, I coordinated the delegation and attended the event as an extra chaperone, along with Edgardo Juarez, Director of the Office of Ministry with Young Catholics. The trip was financed by the two offices, along with a grant from Catholic Charities San Bernardino-Riverside.
“It was a great opportunity to lead young people in putting their faith in action,” Juarez said. “Empowering them to voice their concerns and know that they can be the change in their communities.”
The youth left Sacramento largely inspired by their experience – some joked about what office they would inhabit after running for elected office – and looking forward to being the change in their local communities.