EDITORIAL: Pivotal moments ahead for Alaskan Catholics

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Changes are afoot in Alaska this November, both in the halls of government and the spiritual leadership of the Catholic Church. During these pivotal transitions the faithful should be fully engaged.

First up is Nov. 8, when we have a duty to participate in advancing the common good of our immediate communities, state and nation by casting ballots that are guided by well-formed consciences and a commitment to uphold the non-negotiable moral teachings of Christ and his church.

This is not an easy task, especially since individual candidates very rarely hold to all the teachings of the Catholic Church. Some are stronger than others, but none are perfect. In some cases all options are far from ideal. Thankfully, we are not asked to vote for a perfect candidate, but one who will best advance (or least undermine) the most essential moral foundations of our faith. What are these pillars? First is the right to life from the moment of conception to its natural end. All other rights depend on this and without it they are impossibilities.

Secondarily is the right to establish and raise a family built upon the life-long bond of one man and one woman. The right to form families is a natural right, as families are the first cells of any society and predate the formation of states. And we must uphold the right to live in accord with our conscience — to worship God in freedom and to publicly incarnate our beliefs in the public square without being forced to violate our faith. Motivated by a love for Christ, we must be free to serve the poor and marginalized, speak out against threats to the unborn and the natural family and assist the elderly and most vulnerable in our midst.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted an extensive guide for voters on its website (usccb.org/issues-and-action/faithful-citizenship). It is essential reading before casting a ballot.

After the polls close on November 8, the wheels of change continue in Southcentral Alaska — but in a far more fundamental arena. Beginning at 7 p.m., clergy, religious and lay Catholics will quietly gather at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage to pray for Christ’s newest apostle to Alaska.

On the eve of Bishop Paul Etienne’s installation as the fourth archbishop of Anchorage and successor to Archbishop Roger Schwietz, the faithful have an opportunity to pray that the Holy Spirit will guide and strengthen Alaska’s new shepherd.

The very next day, at 2 p.m., hundreds will assemble in Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral to witness the formal transition from Archbishop Schwietz to Archbishop Etienne. There the latter will accept his bishop’s staff and take the seat of the archbishop.

What role do the faithful play in this? Our incoming archbishop said it best in the pages of this issue. He asks us to first pray for him and “our common future.” He desires to meet us and our local parishes. He wants to know our joys and hopes, our concerns and our loves. This is new missionary territory for Archbishop Etienne, and as an ambassador of Christ to Alaska he comes to meet us personally, to love us and call us to our common destiny with God. Let us open our homes and our hearts and our way of life to him — pledging our fidelity and sharing our experiences.

This November is no time to for Catholics to check out or passively stand by. Born of a transforming love, our faith is one of action.

The writer is editor of the Catholic Anchor, the newspaper and news website of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska.

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