Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Needs, Not Money, Where Nun's Mouth Is

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Needs, Not Money, Where Nun's Mouth Is

Article excerpt

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- In the cafeteria on the top floor of the state Capitol here, designer-suited lobbyists are snapping the clasps on their attache cases and talking into their cellular phones.

Sister of Social Service Sheila Walsh is a lobbyist, too, although she does not own a cell phone and wears workday clothes that stand out in these surroundings. "My clients," Walsh says, "can't pay me." The people she works for as executive director of Jericho, an interfaith lobbying organization, are California's poor.

Started by Walsh in 1986, Jericho, according to its literature, "provides a vehicle for members of faith communities to advocate for the poor, the elderly, children and the homeless." Walsh said Jericho's 2,500 members are mostly Catholic but include a broad representation of Protestant denominations as well as some Jews.

Walsh had spent the morning testifying at and monitoring a meeting of the Human Services Committee of the Legislature's lower house, the Assembly. The committee was considering a series of measures to restrict public assistance.

She limited her testimony to short appeals to the legislators' consciences. On a bill that would deny services to undocumented immigrants, she said simply, "We feel very strongly that this is a moral issue. To deny people the services they need is morally wrong and unacceptable. We ask that you oppose it and vote against it."

But this April day, the Republicans on the panel paid little attention to her and other opposition witnesses. …

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