In late March, just as state budget negotiations were heating up in Albany, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the state’s bishops, including our own Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, came to the State Capitol. They began their day of advocacy with Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, at which Cardinal Dolan preached a brief but effective homily.

The cardinal asked rather pointedly, while scratching his head, “What am I doing here? What am I doing in this town that focuses on the temporal, the practical and the political?”

Then he answered by centering his message on Hebrews 12:2: “In your journey to heaven, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.”

It was a message I needed to hear. I often ask myself the same question when I step into the halls of the Legislative Office Building: “What the heck am I doing here?”

I am a representative of the Church, and we’re supposed to be about charity, mercy and spiritual salvation. What am I doing working in a system that seems to thrive on back-room deals and appears mired in some new corruption scandal on a regular basis?

I’m trying to change it, that’s what I’m doing. I’m keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus as I work to restore respect for human life and human dignity to the public policies of our state.

That’s also what our bishops were doing at the State Capitol during state budget negotiations. They met and dialogued with Republicans and Democrats, with Senators and Assembly members, with those who agree with us and those who do not. They agreed to work together, where possible, in attempts to find common ground that serves the common good.

Did we get everything we were seeking? Of course not; that’s not how it works. But we did manage to ensure that the final state spending plan would not expand access to late-term abortion or loosen New York’s already too-liberal abortion laws.

We helped non-profit human service providers like Catholic Charities secure $15 million to fund the minimum wage increase for their work force.

For our Catholic schools, we were successful in obtaining an increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) funding and mandated services aid.

We will remain vigilant to finalize details and ensure that these victories hold.

The Catholic Church views legislative advocacy not only as a right, but as a moral obligation — for all of us. Our bishops teach us that every believer is called to become an informed, active and responsible participant in the political process.

Politics is about shaping laws and policies that will profoundly impact children and families, the innocent unborn, the sick and dying, the poor and the oppressed. It’s about building His kingdom here on Earth.

As Catholics, we cannot turn our backs on our duty as citizens; for, if we do, we turn our backs on our neighbors, on God and on the central beliefs of our faith. Seen through this lens, politics is a noble profession.

Make no mistake: There continue to be many elected representatives, right here in the Diocese of Albany, who take their jobs seriously and serve the public honorably. We are blessed to have them.

We must stay the course and continue to advocate for ethical principles and just laws, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends.

(Mrs. Gallagher is director of pro-life activities for the state Catholic Conference, which lobbies for New York’s bishops on public policy issues. See