I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church with a dictionary close at hand. The section about prayer (CCC 2613) uses the word “importunate” to describe two parable characters:

The first, “the importunate friend,” invites us to urgent prayer: “Knock and it will be opened to you” (cf. Luke 11:5-13).

The second, “the importunate widow,” is centered on one of the qualities of prayer: it is necessary to pray always without ceasing and with the patience of faith (cf. Luke 18:1-8).

I looked it up. Importunate means troublesomely urgent or overly persistent.

These parables teach powerful lessons about persistence, patience and faith. Good tools for living our faith, but they are also good tools for Catholic advocacy.

Several issues in Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg right now are frustratingly unresolved:

HHS contraceptive mandate

A mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would force all employers, including religious employers, to buy coverage for sterilization, contraceptives and drugs that induce abortion, even if it goes against moral teachings. Lawsuits have been filed across the country to challenge this violation of religious liberty. We must pray that religious liberty will prevail.

The regulation was published in its final form, however HHS opened another public comment period to solicit input from citizens, and Congress is considering bills that would protect religious institutions and citizens from this conscience violation. You can submit comments to HHS at www.pacatholic.org.

School choice

Legislation including vouchers and an increase to the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) is still working its way through the legislative process. EITC already helps Catholic schools; this legislation will allow even more families the opportunity to receive a Catholic education.

Legislators need to hear that their constituents support this issue. Pennsylvania cannot afford to put this off until later. Now is the time to pass school choice!

Pro-life legislation

Political controversy postponed the debate over HB 1077, a bill that would give women the right to view an ultrasound of their babies before undergoing an abortion. Opponents have circulated confusing messages about what the bill entails; supporters must speak up with the facts.

An ultrasound examination is already standard practice in abortion clinics to determine gestational age or if the pregnancy is ectopic. Informing a woman that she has the right to view the ultrasound image and hear the heartbeat of her child gives her access to the same information available to her doctor. It is her right to choose for herself whether to view it or hear it; and she can make her decision to abort or not based on informed consent. Ultimately, no matter one’s position on abortion, we can all agree that it is a serious issue that a woman cannot take back or undo.

Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 1977 would remove abortion funding from the state health care exchanges that will be created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). The respective chambers are still negotiating how to achieve final passage.

We must urge the legislature to continue the debate on these pro-life measures.

Take action

It is tempting to give up when the wheels of government seemingly grind to a halt. It is easy to feel defeated when your issue no longer appears on the front page of the newspaper, but visits, calls, letters and emails to legislators about these issues are very effective in prompting action from elected officials. The Pennsylvania Catholic Advocacy Network at www.pacatholic.org makes it easy to take action on all of these issues.

We must heed the Gospel and be “importunate advocates” with persistence, patience and faith. Pray always, of course, but don’t forget to email, call and visit your legislators, too!

A. B. Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference — the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.