Community of St. Francis in Raleigh Sponsors Civic Debate

Megan Nerz and Joseph Wolyniak Around the Province

RALEIGH, N.C. — Recognizing the importance of the North Carolina General Assembly on issues such as healthcare, climate change, immigration, and capital punishment, The Franciscan Coalition for Justice and Peace at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi held its first District Dialog on Jan. 31.

The District Dialog was the fourth and final installment of the Coalition’s Faith and Politics series that began in August 2007 as a way of creating a better understanding of the Church’s social teaching, the moral dimensions of public policy, and the importance of participation on matters affecting the common good. 

The dialog featured a panel of three North Carolina legislators representing key districts surrounding the North Raleigh parish:  Marilyn Avila, newly elected to the North Carolina House in 2006, representing residents in the 40th district; Ty Harrell, serving his first-term in the North Carolina Legislature and representing the residents of District 41; and Neal Hunt, serving in the state Senate since 2004 and representing the 15th District.

Moderating the dialog was Rob Schofield, director of Research and Policy Development for NC Policy Watch — a special project of the Raleigh-based North Carolina Justice Center.

The discussion focused around the Coalition’s four primary advocacy issues, with discussion preceded by a short statement on the Church’s teaching by advocacy ministry leaders. The discussion was civil, but differences of opinion were clear.  Divergent points of view on key legislative issues made for lively conversation – between both the candidates themselves and the gathered crowd.

The event was a big first step in fostering a working relationship between the Franciscan Coalition and key state legislatures. It afforded St. Francis parishioners an opportunity to meet their representatives and demystify the work of bearing public witness.

Next up in the Coalition: Fr. Emmanuel Katongole, professor of theology and world Christianity at Duke University, Durham, N.C., will kick off a new event series at the Catholic Community of St. Francis entitled “Sojourns for Justice.”  Fr. Katongole, having served in parishes from Uganda to Belgium to the United States, will draw on his experience and scholarship to address the parish on “Reconciliation and Social Transformation.”  For more on this event, see the Coalition web site:

—  Megan Nerz is director the Franciscan Coalition at St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh where Joseph Wolyniak is  advocacy  ministries coordinator.  Both are leading an immersion delegation on the U.S. Mexico border this week.