January 14, 2011

New Catholic lawmakers ready to tackle state’s challenges

By Brigid Curtis Ayer

Seven Catholic lawmakers who are new members of the Indiana General Assembly say they will draw on their faith to tackle some of the state’s biggest challenges as they begin their journey under the Capitol dome in Indianapolis.

Producing a balanced budget, creating jobs, reducing abortion and providing school choice for all Hoosier children top the new Catholic lawmakers’ “to do” list this year.

“My faith will always guide my decisions in everything [that] I do,” said Rep. Ron Bacon, R-Chandler. “We always have to be looking out for the underserved and underprivileged. My Catholic faith has instilled that in me.” (Related: Catholics make up nearly 25 percent of Indiana’s state lawmakers in 2011)

A cradle Catholic and member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Daylight in the Evansville Diocese, Bacon said he believes that all the issues are important, but described himself as “very passionate” about the right-to-life issue.

A respiratory therapist and the owner of R. Bacon Enterprises Inc. in Boonville, Bacon is married, and has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Rep. Sue Ellspermann, R-Ferdinand, is the founding director of the University of Southern Indiana’s Center for Applied Research. She said that economic development and informed consent will be the issues closest to her heart during this session.

“We need economic development in the smaller, rural communities and to stop the brain drain,” said Ellspermann, a member of St. Ferdinand Parish in Ferdinand in the Evansville Diocese. “Rural areas have been left behind in the state’s economic development at the high-intellect level.”

Ellspermann said life issues are “critically important” to her, and she will be working to update Indiana’s informed consent law.

“It’s a given [that] if a mother has an ultrasound and sees her baby, she is not at all likely to abort,” Ellspermann said.

Rep. Cindy Kirchhofer, R-Beech Grove, is a paralegal/risk management specialist for St. Francis Hospital, who joined the Catholic Church as an adult. She said she will be guided by contemplative prayer throughout the session.

“To be honest, I’m a little nervous, but there are about 20 new lawmakers in the House all starting together,” Kirchhofer said.

“The priority is to get a balanced budget,” added Kirchhofer, a member of Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Indianapolis. “I feel a certain moral responsibility with the budget to be a good steward. I’m used to working with the Catholic ethical and religious directives, and I go back to them to help make decisions.”

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, is a former teamster and union steward in the trucking industry.

“It was my Catholic Christian faith and prayer that got me into the Senate race, and it will continue to be a guiding force for all my decisions—not just those I make in the legislature,” said Tomes, a member of St. Wendel Parish in Wadesville in the Evansville Diocese.

A veteran of the Vietnam War and former member of the 101st Airborne, Tomes is authoring an informed consent bill and a resolution banning same-sex marriage.

“I am here to serve. I am an employee of the people. I understand my role,” Tomes said. “My challenge will be to fulfill this obligation with honor.”

Rep. Matthew Ubelhor, R-Bristow, serves as a coal mine operations manager for Viking Mine and Miller Creek Mine. He grew up in a large Catholic family with six brothers and five sisters.

“My Catholic faith is the basis of all my decisions, legislatively or whether I’m driving down the road,” he said.

Ubelhor, a member of St. Peter Parish in Linton in the Evansville Diocese, describes himself as “very pro-life.”

“I’m very concerned with all the social issues, and the economic issues,” he said.

Ubelhor said he will be co-authoring an informed consent bill and a bill to prohibit any state money from going to abortion providers.

Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, R-Syracuse, is the daughter of migrant workers. She said her Catholic faith will affect her decision making from the sense of having to be “true to myself.”

Kubacki, who grew up in a family with six brothers and sisters, said that she will ask God to help her make the right decision to serve the greater good of people in the state.

Kubacki, a member of St. Martin de Porres Parish in Syracuse in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese, said her most important issue is job creation.

Coming from a large family, Kubacki recalled times when they had to make sacrifices while growing up.

“My mom always said, ‘God will take care of us,’ and he always did,” she said.

A stay-at-home mother who has been married for 37 years, Kubacki said, “When I run my household, I have to look at what can we hold off on or where can we cut back. This is what we are going to have to do with the budget. Moms are really good at making these kinds of decisions lovingly, but [also at] making the tough, sometimes heart-wrenching decisions.”

Rep. Bob Morris, R-Fort Wayne, is the owner of Healthkick Nutrition Centers. He said, “My Catholic faith has guided me in many decisions in my life, and it will continue to guide me this legislative session. I feel very strongly about protecting Hoosier taxpayers, promoting job creation and reforming education.

“Another issue that is very close to my heart is the issue of pro-life,” said Morris, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Fort Wayne in the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese. “As a father of five children, [and] number six on the way, I value the lives of all children greatly, especially those just conceived, because those are our youngest souls.”

(Brigid Curtis Ayer is a correspondent for The Criterion.)

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