For Release :
Remarks by The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark, on the Importance of Census 2010 to the People of New Jersey
A couple of weeks ago, we all received letters in the mail telling us "Do not be afraid." The Census forms will be in your hands soon. Please fill them out and return them right away."
Then, a little over a week ago, we began receiving our packages. Ten questions. No study required. Mostly multiple choice – just check off the box.
Seems easy enough, right?
So, why all the fuss about the Census? Why are some people concerned? And, most of all, why is this project so important that even I am coming forward today to urge everyone in our state and in our nation to take part in the Census?
The answer, of course, is very simple: the Census benefits each of us. Whether the purpose is to help determine our representation in Congress, or to participate in more than $400 billion federal funds that will be spent on local and state government projects, the only way we can be sure that we receive our fair share, and have our voice heard, we have to start with the head count of all of the people here in New Jersey.
So, it is critical that every one of us gets counted.
While Catholic schools will not benefit from the funds made available by the Census because of inequities in federal and state laws, our Catholic Charities operations in each of the dioceses of New Jersey certainly will be eligible to share in the benefits of the Census. After the State Government itself, Catholic Charities is the single largest provider of social services in this state, and affects the lives and well being of countless hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in the state. Similarly, the Catholic hospitals in New Jersey, who are far too often the only source for any health care for the poor, the uninsured and the marginalized, will benefit when the people of New Jersey answer the Census.
As Archbishop, I am the spiritual leader of some 1.3 million Catholics in the four northeastern counties of New Jersey. Actually, I know that this figure is a little out of date. When this new Census is completed, I am sure that this number will be much higher because this state traditionally has been a state that welcomes newcomers. Although I represent the Catholic people of my Archdiocese, the spiritual and the general welfare of all of the people of New Jersey are important to me. And for that reason, the Archdiocese has for the past year been in partnership with the Census Bureau to promote the Census, to encourage people to participate, and to work with the Bureau in every way possible to make sure that all of the people of New Jersey are counted.
Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, whose district encompasses cities in both the Newark Archdiocese and Paterson Diocese, recently made me aware of a startling fact – in 2000 only about 56 percent of New Jerseyans were counted in the Census. That figure is 10 percent lower than the national average. On paper, forty-four percent of the people of New Jersey didn't exist. But in reality, they do. We see them every day. They are our neighbors, friends and relatives. They are strangers. And they all matter.
Because they forgot to be counted, or were afraid to be counted, or did not know that they needed to be counted, our state lost out on critical resources and representation over the past 10 years.
Because New Jersey was undercounted, we shortchanged ourselves. We can't let that happen this time.
In the past year, our parishes and schools encouraged our communities to take part in the Census, have hosted meetings and served as locations for Census workers to provide early information, and in this time of economic hardship, have encouraged our parishioners to work for the Census Bureau to get this job done, to help New Jersey, and to help themselves. We are very excited to be part of this effort, and I am here today to urge everyone to not be afraid.
I am not an expert on the Census, and I hope none of you here today ask me any details questions about how it will operate. I will leave that to the others gathered with me today on the stage.
You know, we talk about the Census every ten years, and we forget about it until the next time, ten years later.
Yet, the Catholic people of New Jersey – in fact, Christian people everywhere in the world – truly know deep down in our hearts that the Census is important. It is a part of our history, and part of our future.
Two millennia ago, there was another Census, called for by a powerful emperor in faraway Rome. He didn't call for a headcount of all of the people in his realm because he wanted to help them, to build roads, to educate, to heal, to serve. He called for the headcount because he wanted to know how many people he ruled.
People listened to and followed the decree to take part in the census, because they knew they had to be counted, or else. One family in particular was uprooted by the call, had to venture far away from their home and were forced to be homeless for a period of time in order to be counted. We know that family as the Holy Family, a family blessed by God, but left to struggle with little help from its government or its new community.
Today, I encourage everyone to be counted. Do it because it will benefit you and your family, and because it makes it possible to bring people out of the shadows and into the light.