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SMC Votes hosts event discussing faith, politics

| Friday, March 31, 2023

Saint Mary’s students gathered Wednesday evening for SMC Votes’ “Politics and Pretzels” series to hear Angela Espada, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference (ICC), speak about the relationship between faith and politics.

The ICC is the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Indiana. According to the ICC website, it acts as “the statewide coordinating body for the five Roman Catholic Dioceses. Its basic purpose is to serve the spiritual, moral and material well-being of the people in the state.”

Libbey Detcher, student leader of SMC Votes, described the purpose behind the club on campus.

“SMC Votes is a year-long, student-driven initiative that focuses on increasing voter registration and participation on campus,” Detcher said in an email. “We also try to create opportunities for civic engagement for the SMC community.”

Detcher also explained the reasoning behind combining faith with politics at the event in Le Mans Hall — especially given the Catholic background of the tri-campus community. 

“I think a lot of times, people think being a Catholic voter is to vote with one issue in mind, which is not the case at all,” she said in the email. “Catholic politics are human-oriented, and I’m glad we were able to share that perspective with someone pursuing these causes for a career.”

Espada said that Catholics comprise 40% of the statehouse, despite making up only 11% of Indiana’s population.

“It gets hard to realize it was such a small minority or a small number when you are constantly associating with other people like you,” she said. 

Espada said that discussing Catholic social teaching with lawmakers can also be difficult because of its more recent incorporation into Catholic curriculum.

“I started off in pre-kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade, then went to public school,” she said. “Ended up sixth, seventh, eighth grade and then high school at a Catholic school and never had that conversation [about Catholic social teaching]. That’s a problem when I’m trying to talk to the lawmakers about Catholic social teaching, because many of them are as old as me or older and didn’t learn it back then.”

Espada’s visit was the last installment in the “Politics and Pretzels” series.

“Faith and Politics was the last event we have planned for the year, but students are always welcome to pop into the Office for the Common Good if they have any questions about voting,” Detcher said. “The 2023 primary elections are coming up, so we still need to keep in mind that many local and even some state offices are on the ballot this year. Those who are able should vote twice a year, every year.”

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