For the past 8 years I have been working for the Catholic Dioceses in Colorado as the Executive Director of the Colorado Catholic Conference. The Conference is the state-level public policy and lobbying arm of the three dioceses in Colorado. I am extremely blessed to have a job that I love, but also a job that is challenging, fast-paced and rewarding every day (well… most days!).
As I sit down to write this, the Colorado Legislature has finished the 2015 legislative session. It is a good time to catch my breath and reflect on the issues the Church in Colorado worked on over the course of the session; it always amazes me to realize the breadth of issues the Church is able to lend its voice and influence to. During this past session, the Church in Colorado advocated on issues related to poverty, the environment, fetal homicide, physician-assisted suicide, education and adoption – just to name a few!
The lasting impact (both positive and negative) that policy and legislation can have on a vast number of people can be overwhelming to think about at times, but one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is the ability to interact with people who have real stories to share concerning how any given policy or piece of legislation will affect their own lives or that of their family. These people take time out of their day or take time off of work to sit for hours as they wait to testify for 3 minutes because they care so deeply about an issue. These people are my inspiration, and they inspire me to do the best job I can for the issues that I advocate on behalf of because I know there will be real consequences for real people and their families.
Before I took this job I never gave much thought to what happened during any state’s legislative session; I never realized the tremendous impact a relatively small amount of people could have on any given legislative issue. My job has given me the opportunity to experience firsthand the power that people have to effect change in their community when they choose to participate in the political process. This participation doesn’t always involve a great deal of time or effort – often it is something as simple as sending an email or making a phone call to an elected official.
Archbishop Chaput once remarked that, if “…we really love this country, and if we really treasure our faith, living our Catholic beliefs without excuses or apologies, and advancing them in the public square, are the best expressions of patriotism we can give to the nation.” I am grateful for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Catholic Church into the public square and help other Catholics realize the importance of bringing their values and faith to bear on the public square as well.
Jenny Kraska is a 2004 graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law and is executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Catholic Studies (2001) and a Master of Arts in Catholic Studies (2005) from the University of St. Thomas.