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A message from the bishop

As election day nears, let the Spirit be your guide (October 2016)
 
My dear friends,
 
As our presidential election approaches, I encourage you to continue to pray for our government officials and those soon to be elected. May they be granted the wisdom to discern God’s will and work to promote the common good and foster human dignity, especially for the least in our society.

As Americans, we are blessed with religious liberty, which safeguards our right to bring our moral convictions into the public arena. These constitutional freedoms need to be both exercised and protected. As Catholics, we have the right and duty to participate fully in public life and to elect officials who will uphold important values such as protecting the unborn, the environment and the common good. We are called to bring together our principles and our political choices, our values and our votes, to help build a civilization of truth and love. (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, 14) Every four years since 2007, prior to each presidential election, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reissues Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. The document does not tell us for whom to cast our vote. It does, however, remind us of our duty as Catholics to form our consciences properly in order to make the best choices possible on election day.
 
Our conscience assists us to do good and avoid evil. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed.” (CCC 1778) Forming one’s conscience is a lifelong task that requires our time and effort, but one for which the Lord has provided us many tools. “We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.” (CCC 1785)
 
One tool we can use to form our conscience properly is prayer. Prayer is always important, but especially during an election year when Catholic voters must choose between deeply flawed options. Through prayer, we have a dialogue with God, listening to where His voice calls us. Time spent with the Lord will allow us to vote with a voice that is bigger than ourselves, following his commands.
 
In addition to prayer, we can form our conscience by reflecting on the word of God, receiving the Eucharist, participating in the sacrament of reconciliation and looking at the decisions we make every day. While everyday decisions may seem insignificant at the time, they can become virtues or habits that form the basis for our conscience. When we aspire to lead a virtuous life, we focus on doing good and avoiding evil. A cardinal virtue we have been given as Catholics is that of prudence. A prudent person always seeks to do what is right in order to have eternal life in heaven.
 
When forming our conscience, we must take time to deepen our knowledge of the authentic teaching of the Church. If we do not understand the moral teachings handed down to us by Christ, we cannot properly form our conscience to make good moral decisions. It’s not enough to know these teachings; we must learn how we can apply them in our daily decisions. We need, then, to be people who take our Catholic faith seriously, who believe that what the Catholic faith teaches is true, who submit our lives to the Lord and the guidance of the community of faith that is the Church.
 
As Catholics, we will not agree with everything that a candidate stands for, and yet we find ourselves recalling the words of Jesus to love our enemies. Politicians hold different ideas and values and represent different platforms, all of which may not agree with the tenets of Catholic moral and social teaching. One candidate, however, will win the election and become president of the United States. He or she will lead this country for at least the next four years. May we pray for that person’s integrity and conscience to uphold the sanctity of marriage, the well-being of the family and the dignity of each human life. God created us with free will and intellect. He expects us to think carefully and clearly in prioritizing the issues that will direct us as we participate in the election process. May the Holy Spirit inform and guide us as we head to our voting booths on Election Day!  
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak