MADISON — Spring election day in Wisconsin was an opportunity for Catholics to get involved in their government on two levels: to vote and to arm themselves with the skills to make their voice heard in the public square.

Much of the Catholics at the Capitol event, which drew about 250 people to the Monona Terrace April 5, was geared toward education on issues. With a theme of “Living Faith in the Public Square,” it featured a keynote talk by Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, workshops on social justice concerns, and a Q-and-A panel of four clergy and lay Catholic leaders, moderated by Viterbo University professor Tom Thibodeau.

Following the event, many of the Catholics who attended went to the Capitol to meet with their legislators.

The biennial event, sponsored by the Wisconsin Catholic Conference (WCC), the state bishops’ public policy voice, in collaboration with Catholic organizations around the state, is an effort to help Catholics feel more comfortable engaging in politics and to give them the tools to do so intelligently and with civility.

“We realize that we are in a period where issues divide many of us,” Archbishop Listecki said in his keynote address. “The ability for civil discourse in a climate of mutual respect seems to be, at best, strained. Our state is hurting. Our people are divided. Our leaders seem to be reluctant to listen to one another.

“We are not assigning blame or taking sides, but we are here to help with the healing to lend our voice, our vision, and our heart to our government and its leaders to be a witness of the hope offered by those who serve Christ and his church.”

We may honestly disagree on our political views and approaches to achieving a common solution to the problems facing us as a community, the archbishop said, but we need to be united in our resolve to have our state succeed in serving the common good.

“Today our differences should be placed aside so that together we might offer a message of hope which comes from our faith,” he said. “We are not ideologues who attempt to achieve our goals through any means possible. We are people who are committed to a person – Jesus Christ, and it is he and his church, in its teachings, that inform and form our consciences and direct our actions toward the good so that we, as citizens of this great state and nation, can exercise our freedom to make our positions known with a sense of respect.”

Breakout sessions gave background on various social justice topics – from prison reform to pro-life promotion.