1. Should everyone attending the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering make Congressional visits?

YES!  All Catholic Social Ministry Gathering attendees are strongly encouraged to visit their members of Congress. It is a great opportunity to bring a unified Catholic message to Capitol Hill, and it is imperative that Congress hear our message.

We speak for those who don't have powerful lobbyists or deep pockets. Their voices are too often missing in these debates, but they have the most compelling moral claim on our consciences and our common resources.

Your state captain will make appointments with your Senators and will encourage you to join in those meetings, unless the group becomes too large.Once your state captain has confirmed these meetings, s/he will contact you with instructions to help you schedule a meeting with your Representative.

After coordinating with your state captain, try to request your appointment with your Representative at least two to three weeks prior to coming to Washington, DC. You will receive an email about pertinent issues and background information in mid- to late-January 2013. The selection of issues and timing is influenced by what legislation is moving through Congress.

To find out who your Representative is, visit www.house.gov. Enter your zip code in the space provided and it will list the name of your Member of Congress from your state and district.

2. What day should I plan my visit on Capitol Hill?

Tuesday afternoon between 1:00-5:00 PM is typically the time set aside for Capitol Hill visits; however, depending on the Representatives'/ Senators' schedules, your date may be different. Be flexible, as establishing an ongoing relationship with the offices of your Members of Congress is most important. Should your meetings be scheduled before Tuesday afternoon, arrangements can be made for you to be briefed on the issues beforehand.   

Following the Capitol Hill visits, we come together to celebrate our experiences and mingle informally with Congressional members and their staff who have accepted the invitations you distribute during your visit. This takes place at a reception on Capitol Hill.

Ideally, try to arrange to meet with representatives first and reserve the late afternoon for Senate meetings. This minimizes travel across the Capitol Hill complex and makes it easier to attend the reception.

3. What is a state captain?

A state captain is a Catholic Social Ministry Gathering attendee who volunteers to coordinate their state delegation's Capitol Hill visits.

For some states, particularly larger ones, a co-captain assists with the coordination. If you are interested in serving, please contact Virginia Farris at vfarris@usccb.org.

4. What is the state captain's responsibility?

The state captain's primary responsibility is to schedule the meetings with Senators on behalf of the state delegation. In order to avoid schedule conflicts, it is important to communicate with the state captain about setting up the meeting with your Representative.

State captains should communicate with their delegation prior to arriving at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering.

5. How will I know who is my state captain?

Your state captain will communicate with you prior to the Gathering by either email or telephone. If you have not heard from your state captain by late-January 2013, contact Virginia Farris, Chair of the Capitol Hill Visits Committee at vfarris@usccb.org or 202-541-3182 to get your state captain's contact information.

6. Will I be able to meet with my state captain once I arrive at the meeting?

The state captains meet with their individual delegations at Monday lunch or Tuesday breakfast during the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering to coordinate who should attend which visits, especially if there are a large number of delegates from the state. The state captain will provide an update on appointments that have been confirmed recently and help decide who will be the spokesperson on each issue.

7. How should I prepare for the visit to Congress?

Join us on Sunday, February 10 at 1:30 p.m. for the First-Time CSMG Attendees Orientation, which will include discussion about legislative advocacy and its role in the CSMG. Then on Tuesday February 12 there will be an Advocacy Fair from 11:00-12:30 a.m., at which participants will sharpen skills and have a last opportunity to get answers to questions on policy issues before heading to our Capitol Hill visits that afternoon. Finally, all participants are encouraged to spend some time in advance of travel to CSMG with the Quick Tips for Advocacy. And those who will be serving as State Captains for legislative visits will find the Information for State Captains and Tips for State Captains webinars especially helpful.

Read additional information about the Capitol Hill visit and policy issue backgrounders to familiarize yourself with the issues you will be discussing (these will be available soon).

8. Where can I find additional information about visiting Capitol Hill?

For more information on how to set up your visit with legislators and what to expect check out our step-by-step guide to Congressional visits


Global Solidarity in Action: A Guide for International Issue Advocacy in the United States is available at no cost from Catholic Relief Services. Please contact CRS at 1-866-608-5978.

An Advocacy Manual: Developing and Changing Public Policies, a Catholic Charities USA publication available at http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/NetCommunity/Document.Doc?id=1098. Please contact Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or via e-mail at lcobbs@catholiccharitiesusa.org for more information.

Thank you for your advocacy efforts! Together, we can make a difference.