Sep 2010

Minnesota: Poverty up, median income down, racial disparities persist

The Census released results from the 2009 American Community Survey on Tuesday morning - and the numbers do not look good for Minnesota (read our press release).
Poverty increased. The overall percentage of Minnesotans living in poverty rose to 11 percent in 2009, a significant increase from pre-recession levels. Some people in Minnesota saw a particularly strong increase in poverty between 2007 and 2009, including Latinos (four percentage point increase), children (two percentage point increase) and white non-Hispanics (one percentage point increase). Remember, in 2009, a family of three would have had to earn less than $18,300 to be considered living in poverty.
Median household income fell. Demonstrating that the effects of the recession were felt by most families, Minnesota’s median household income fell by two percent between 2008 and 2009, after adjusting for inflation. Although it dropped by about $1,000 to $55,616, Minnesota’s median household income remained higher than the national level ($50,221).
The racial disparities are stunning. Even though non-Hispanic whites experienced a significant increase in poverty and a significant decline in median household income, Minnesota’s communities of color are the ones who are really being left behind. Demonstrating the impact of the historic lack of access to educational and employment opportunities, Blacks, American Indian and Latino communities experienced much lower median household incomes and much higher rates of poverty in 2009.
The numbers are dramatic – 35 percent of Blacks and American Indians in Minnesota fell below the poverty line in 2009. Latinos (26 percent) and Asians (17 percent) also had a significantly higher poverty rate than non-Hispanic whites (eight percent).
In 2009, the median income for Black ($26,930), American Indian ($33,930) and Latino ($38,751) households in Minnesota was also significantly lower than the median income in non-Hispanic white households ($57,979). While non-Hispanic white households had a median income well above the national median in 2009, Black households in Minnesota fell below the median income for their counterparts nationally.
Where do we go from here? In a recession, the pressure builds as the need for public services increases while state revenues are falling. We know that the state continues to face large budget shortfalls, but reducing or eliminating state services to balance the budget will not help us move forward from this recession. Continuing cuts in services means more job losses, a greater strain on remaining public services and higher poverty. It leads to a cycle where families can’t get help when they need it most.
But we can help our communities recover from the recession, and that means raising revenues to help balance the budget and maintain investments in education, health care and job training. We also need to be building a strong economy where we can reverse the disparities in our state and give everyone the opportunity to succeed.
-Christina Wessel
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Bishop Samuel Aquila: “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life”

In a talk presented at the Sept. 22 Gospel of Life Prayer Breakfast in St. Louis, Mo., Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fargo, said, “There can be no backing away in the public square from the call to proclaim the dignity of human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”
The prayer breakfast was sponsored by the St. Louis chapter of Legatus, a lay organization of Catholic business and professional leaders. The text of Bishop Aquila’s talk is posted at

Highest Papal Award Granted to Sister Monica Kostielney, R.S.M.

Lansing) – Sister Monica Kostielney, R.S.M., President and Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Catholic Conference, has been awarded the Holy Cross Pro-Ecclesia et Pontifice (For Church and Pontiff) medal by Pope Benedict XVI.

The papal award was presented to Sister Monica September 8, 2010 at the Michigan Catholic Conference location in downtown Lansing, from which she will retire in November. The medal was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and is now bestowed upon lay persons and clergy who, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “deserve well of the pope on account of services done for the Church and its head.”  Saints Peter and Paul are engraved on the front of the medal while the Coat of Arms of the Holy See and of the State of Vatican City is engraved on the back. The medal’s ribbon is white and yellow, the colors of the flag of the Holy See.

Most Reverend Earl Boyea, bishop of the Diocese of Lansing, recommended Sister Monica for the papal award.

“Sister Monica has been an exemplary leader of the MCC, has worked extraordinarily well with the Bishops of the State of Michigan, and is completely dedicated to the Catholic Church and especially to Her social teachings,” says Bishop Boyea.  “If Sister Monica had completed only one-tenth of all that she has done over these many years, she would have deserved this papal award.  We are so indebted to her for her love and service.”

Sister Monica will retire from the Michigan Catholic Conference as President and Chief Executive Officer on November 15 after 38 years of service.  Beginning her tenure as a Public Affairs Assistant for Education, Sister Monica became Executive Vice President for Public Affairs in 1983 before being named President/CEO in 1994.  Sister Monica, a native of Detroit, received both her bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English and Medieval Studies from the University of Detroit.  

In 1999, Sister Monica received an Honorary Doctor of Law degree from Sacred Heart Major Seminary for providing “outstanding leadership in the defeat of the referendum (Proposal B) on physician-assisted suicide,” and the Saint Thomas More Award from the Catholic Lawyers Guild of the Diocese of Lansing in 1997 for “tireless efforts to influence legislation that promotes sound public policy, respect for the human person, and the common good.”  

Throughout her career Sister Monica has served both the local and the national church on matters related to Catholic education, law, human development and health care.  She is a past member of Catholic Charities USA Social Policy Committee, past president and treasurer/secretary of the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors, and current member of the National Diocesan Attorneys’ Association.

Texas Bishops' 82nd Session Legislative Agenda and Policy Papers Now Available The Legislative Agenda includes a statement on the Texas budget shortfall as well as 48 specific priorities in the areas of Life and Family Life Issues, Immigration, Education, Health & Human Services, and Criminal Justice Reform. While the Legislative Agenda is broad and spans a multitude of issues, the Conference will monitor and respond to any relevant matters before the Texas Legislature, even if the issue is not specifically listed on the agenda. The Legislative Agenda can be viewed online here.
The updated Texas Catholic Conference 82nd Legislative Agenda is now available on the Conference web site,

Protect Michigan's Constitution

MCC Board of Directors has taken a position to oppose Proposal 1, a question on the November ballot that will ask voters if Michigan should convene a constitutional convention in 2011. This Focus publication provides questions and answers about a “con-con” and explains why the ballot question should be opposed by voters. Continue reading…

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Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference appointed to Governor’s Council

Chris Leifeld, Executive Director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, was appointed by Governor Tim Pawlenty to the Governor’s Council on Faith and Community Service Initiatives on September 2, 2010. Mr. Leifeld will serve on the Council until April 4, 2011. Read the press release from the Governor’s Office here.
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Paul Long Named President and CEO of MCC

Michigan Catholic Conference Board of Directors unanimously voted today to name MCC Vice President for Public Policy Paul A. Long as the Conference’s next President and Chief Executive Officer. Long succeeds Sister Monica Kostielney, RSM, who is retiring in November after 38 years of service to the Conference, the last 16 as President/CEO. Continue reading…
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