Sarah Hahn is many things. She’s a runner, a Franciscan University of Steubenville graduate, and the daughter and granddaughter of veterans. However, as a millennial mother of six young children, she was not planning on becoming a politician anytime soon. Yet when she and her husband brought their kids to a local political event, they walked away as delegates for their precinct.
“We thought we would go and support those of our neighbors who were running. When we got there, we met lots of conservatives, but no one wanted to run,” Hahn said. “We kind of felt like it was our duty.”
The Hahns were later voted to represent their district, then went on to a meeting with potential state delegates. At that point, Hahn learned that if she and her husband were elected, they would have to spend two weeks in Cleveland. That wasn’t an option with her herd of little ones, so she found other conservative candidates and started pushing for them.
After all, she had been elected to represent her district.
“My vote wasn’t just representing me. My vote represented thousands of votes,” Hahn said.
Again, Hahn went to her first caucus meeting not intending to run. She wound up as a contender to become a state delegate. And as a highly controversial pair of candidates look to capture their parties’ nominations, it may be time to revisit the Catholic principle of subsidiarity to understand how that could happen.
How the Church helps
Jenny Kraska is the executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, which is a united voice for Colorado’s three Catholic dioceses, speaking on public policy issues.
She is painfully aware of how much of a difference involvement at the local level can make, and thus strongly encourages Catholics to become involved in their local politics.
“Our Catholic faith is pretty clear about our duties as citizens and Catholics to make our voices heard,” she said.
Kraska’s job is to research policies and advise the faithful on them. You can go to http://www.cocatholicconference.org/ to learn about various policies up for a vote in the state of Colorado, and to see which public officials support or condemn them. The Conference also offers email updates to keep voters informed about important legislation as it occurs.
Kraska said involvement can begin long before a vote.
“One of the big ways you can be involved is to educate yourself on the issues, and what’s happening in the community. There’s tons of local blogs and forums where people talk about these things,” Kraska said.
Hahn said she will use her children’s nap times to learn about the issues. She said the issues she’s learned about aren’t all abortion and Obamacare, either. In fact, she’s confident that anyone can find an issue to become involved with, even if it’s simply the zoning of their neighborhood.
“Maybe you’re not involved with national politics, but you get involved with your HOA. Maybe you go to your HOA and say you want your rec centers to have gender-separate bathrooms,” she said.
As a mother with many young children, Hahn said she understands that some seasons of life are not compatible with high-level political activism. However, she encourages everyone to have some level of involvement.
“Vote. If that’s all you can do, thank you,” Hahn said. “But for those who simply cast a vote on November 4 and only do that thinking it doesn’t make a difference, and are then unhappy with the outcome, then I would recommend reevaluating how you could be more informed.”
Kraska agreed, again emphasizing how to start becoming involved on the local level.
“One of the most underutilized ways to get involved is town hall meetings,” Kraska said. “They’ll allow you the opportunity as a constituent to get more one-on-one time. They allow you the opportunity as a constituent to get more one-on-one time. They allow you to bring up issues you want your legislator to vote on. You could bring your family, your Respect Life group from church, your ENDOW group.”
She said that most legislators will have town halls listed on their websites.
Overall, both Hahn and Kraska strongly encouraged Catholics to be active citizens.
“Get involved. Get your voice heard on these issues,” Kraska said.
Event Reminder: Fortnight for Freedom
Learn about political activism from two saints who were martyred for standing up to their government. The relics of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher will be at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception 9 a.m. to noon and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. June 14. There will be a presentation after the 5:30 Mass.
What is subsidiarity?
Subsidiarity is sprinkled throughout the Catechism and papal documents. It is the principal that problems should be solved on the most local level.
The Catechism explains that “neither state nor any larger society should substitute itself for the initiative and responsibility of individuals and their intermediary bodies.”
So, if a person needs, they should appeal to their family. If their family is unable to help them, they should then appeal to their parish, then bigger groups. Bigger institutions are welcome to help. For example, the state can donate extra food, but it should be distributed through parishes and local groups, because they are closest to the people.
That’s why the Vatican won’t announce that every Catholic soup kitchen has to serve apples and be open on Wednesdays. Instead, the pope encourages us to perform acts of mercy. We then apply that in a way that makes sense for our community. For example, we can see what day no other soup kitchens in Denver are open and decide to open ours that day. We can decide what food to serve based on the population we’re serving, and their dental health. We can do that because we see what our people need.
Because we see what needs to happen around us, we should be involved with our local politics. Something as seemingly simple as a school board election can have a profound effect on your community and, by extension, the nation.