“In the Catholic tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 5).
Use Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship to help raise your family’s awareness of what it means to be a faithful citizen and act responsibly. Here are some suggested activities.
Look for TV shows that address one of the issues mentioned in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. An example may be a news show, documentary, or even a sitcom that is treating some current political or social topic. The key is to check out the show ahead of time and then watch the show together. Just “wander in” and sit down while your children are viewing it. Or decide ahead of time that you will watch a specific show together. However you do it, the most important thing is to talk about the show’s topic. Share your thoughts and listen to their thoughts without being judgmental. Sometimes the only talking you can do is at the TV, but that’s okay. They’ll hear it.
Question, question, question. The bishops’ statement lists “Goals for the Campaign.” Rephrase these goals as questions, so your children can relate to them. For example, “I wonder how much money the person who sews the clothes we buy earns, or how much the farmer who grows the food we eat receives of the price we pay?” “Why are some people poor when so many people are rich?” “I wonder where we would go for health care if we didn’t have insurance?” Do some research together if the questions lead to further discussion.
Look at billboards and television advertisements for various candidates, and critique the advertisements as a family. Do the candidates address any of the issues mentioned in the statement? How well?
Pick out a few short excerpts from the statement, rephrase them for your children, and post them on your refrigerator. Try these: “The answer to violence is not more violence.” “Every child should have the opportunity to be born and to feel welcomed.” “Make the needs of the poor a priority.” “Safe and affordable housing should be available for all.” Try to find candidates or elected officials who support these positions by their policies and actions.
As a dinner prayer in the days leading up to election, read one of the scriptural passages referenced in Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.
Contact your library to get good children’s books that deal with the issues. Some of the Dr. Seuss books are excellent for this.
Have a family night on “citizenship.” Choose one or two issues that are of particular interest to your family. For example, if you have an aging relative in a nursing home, you may want to pick health care or Medicare reform as your issue to discuss. Make a list of how this issue does or could affect your family. Develop a family statement that summarizes your view on the issue. Write this statement in a letter you send to one of the candidates, inviting their comments.
Identify some heroes-people who have taken a stand on these issues-and learn more about them. Blessed Theresa of Calcutta, Archbishop Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Gandhi are some well known examples. Find local heroes as well. Again, your public library, diocesan social action office, peace and justice office, or pro-life office are great resources.
With older children, reflect and act on The Call to Family, Community and Participation by using the Catholic Campaign for Human Development booklet of that name.