Bishop Richard F. Stika led a group of East Tennessee Catholics taking part in the 16th annual Catholic Day on the Hill on Feb. 20.
The state’s three bishops, including Bishop David R. Choby of Nashville and Bishop J. Terry Steib, SVD, of Memphis, visited several legislators as well as Gov. Bill Haslam. At the midpoint of the day’s visits, the bishops paused to celebrate Mass at St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows Church near the Legislative Plaza.
Catholic Day on the Hill offers a chance for the faithful to meet with their legislators and advocate on issues important to the Church.
The bishops also called on state Rep. Bill Dunn of Holy Ghost Parish in Knoxville, and they paid visits to—among others—state Sen. Randy McNally; Sen. Dolores Graham, chair of the Senate Education Committee; and Rep. Beth Harwell, speaker of the House.
Moments after meeting with the governor in mid-afternoon, Bishop Stika said he was pleased with the day overall.
“I think it went excellent. It’s always nice to make contact with the various governmental officials,” he said. “We always look forward to discussing the issues. Today we talked about health care; we talked about immigration, and we talked about school vouchers, three entities that really impact not only Catholics in East Tennessee but also people around the state.”
Bishop Stika said Gov. Haslam is always very pleasant in his meetings with him.
“He’s from Knoxville, so we have a connection there. I think he’s an able administrator and a good leader for the state. I think he listens, and we were able to have good dialogue.”
Under Gov. Haslam’s plan, school vouchers would allow parents of students in under-performing public schools to use tax dollars to enroll their children in private schools.
“Vouchers have to do with children, and the mission of the Catholic Church is about education,” said Bishop Stika. “So we always are open to have a conversation on how we can do things to benefit children throughout the state, and not only Catholic children.”