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IndyCAN rally promotes budget that puts families first

September 8, 2017 | Criterion | Link to Article

More than 350 people gathered in the gymnasium at Holy Spirit Catholic School, cheering in support and applauding with approval.

The crowd was not there for sports, nor were they all Catholic.

But they were unified at this public rally to support a common cause: standing in solidarity with the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN) to promote a 2018 federal budget as a moral document that must put families first.

The event, hosted by the Indianapolis east side parish on Aug. 30, “came about as faith leaders responded to the House budget proposal put forward this summer that included steep cuts in crucial social safety nets, while increasing investments in deportation and incarceration,” said Providence Sister Tracey Horan, who works for IndyCAN.

“Many faith leaders and clergy see how these changes pose serious threats to families in our churches, and wanted to encourage elected leaders to see the budget as a moral document.”

Some of the proposed changes being opposed by the organization and its supporters include cutting Medicare and Medicaid by a combined $2 trillion; dedicating $5.4 million toward immigrant deportation efforts; ending the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy (which was rescinded on Sept. 5); and removing $1 billion in programs designed to reduce crime and keep families together.

“The goal of the event is to support our elected officials in saying ‘no’ to a budget that separates and harms families,” said Sister Tracey.

“We want to lift up the vision of an ‘economy of communion,’ as Pope Francis says. This means saying ‘no’ to ‘an economy of exclusion and inequality that victimizes people when the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life,’ ” she said, quoting Pope Francis in a meeting he had with then-vice president Joseph Biden in April 2016.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was one of the evening’s featured speakers. In his address, he emphasized three of the Church’s seven tenets on social justice: the dignity of the human person from conception to natural death, the right of each person to those things required to uphold the dignity of the person, and solidarity of all persons, particularly in the pursuit of justice and peace.

“Supporting families is a core principle of our faith and our teaching,” he said. “At the center of that is the dignity of the person, and again, solidarity—we have to stand together for what is right and just.”

His comments were echoed by those of Rev. Derrick Slack of 5 Stones Youth Ministry in Indianapolis in his address to the crowd.

“When you have a budget that cuts Medicaid and other health care programs by $1.5 trillion, you are attacking our families,” Slack said. “When you make a budget that wants to slash Medicare funding by $487 billion …, when you pass a budget that cuts DACA funding, … when you want to spend $4.4 billion to build immigrant prisons, you are attacking our families.”

Indiana Catholic Conference executive director Glenn Tebbe, who was present at the event, agreed with Slack’s comments.

“Any time you start talking about dollars and cents and how those affect lives, it obviously has an impact on families, whether it’s health care, whether it’s being able to take care of your basic needs,” said Tebbe, whose organization serves as the public policy voice of the Church in Indiana. “Much of what was proposed seemed to be cutting some very fundamental needs within the family.”

Stories shared by local citizens gave witness to the effects of a budget that does not put families first.

One such witness was Maira Bordonabe, a member of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis.

The young married mother of two recently returned to her family after spending nearly five months at a deportation center in Chicago. She shared the reality of the trauma thrust upon families when such separations occur.

“I spent four months there with other women, most of them mothers,” she said.

In a touching moment, Archbishop Thompson rose from his chair at the front of the gathering to embrace Bordonabe, her face wet with tears, as she returned to her seat. (See related story)

April Barnes of New Zion Community Church in Indianapolis also spoke during the event. The foster parent addressed the negative effects to foster children if Medicaid funds are slashed. In March, the Indiana Department of Child Services released a report noting that the state has more than 23,000 unplaced children who rely on Medicaid. That figure does not include placed foster children who also receive Medicaid assistance.

Members of other faith congregations also spoke during the event, including Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows and Rev. Clarence Moore, pastor of New Era Baptist Church in Indianapolis.

About 10 pastors of various faith communities throughout Indianapolis were present, including Msgr. Paul Koetter, Holy Spirit Parish’s pastor, and Father Christopher Wadelton, pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis.

Not present, however, were the four legislators invited to the event: U.S. senators Joe Donnelly and Todd Young, and U.S. representatives Susan Brooks and Andre Carson.

Donnelly and Brooks did, however, send representatives to the event. They were asked to stand if they would agree to take the IndyCAN requests to their respective senator and representative, and to have their leaders meet with IndyCAN delegates by Sept. 8. Both stood for the first request, and both agreed to take the second request to their offices.

While this drew applause from the audience, one of the longest rounds of applause during the evening came in response to a comment by Archbishop Thompson.

“The quality and character of a nation is not so much its military power or its financial budget,” he said. “But it’s the way it treats its most vulnerable.” †