(The following is Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory's Aug. 20, 2020 “What I Have Seen and Heard” column for the Catholic Standard newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.)

The birth of Jesus Christ occurred during a census year as the Gospel of Saint Luke informs us. We listen to the details of this story each year at Mass on Christmas Eve night. It is one of the most well-known and popular Gospel stories. A Baby born in a stable in Bethlehem during that census year would probably not have been considered as very important to most people at that moment. History and faith, however, have placed Him as centrally important in the records of humanity.

A national census is an occasion to count people – important people and ordinary people as well. We all count during a census. Since 2020 is a census year for the United States of America, we all should be tallied in that process.

I strongly urge everyone to complete and submit the census forms that have come to our homes and to make sure that we include all of the members of our households in that calculation. The Baby and Mary His Mother along with Joseph might well have been considered inconsequential individuals during that ancient census year. But in faith we all now know that they were crucial in that census process and to the world itself.

Unfortunately, some people today might be afraid to be counted in our current census because of their legal status. They might want to conceal their presence within the shadows of fear. They too are important for the census. Some folks might just shrug their shoulders and ask, “What difference will I make to this process?” They perhaps have lost a sense of their own worth in our world. Others might even suggest that the entire procedure is too flawed even to be accurate. Our census is a means to help us achieve vital information that will be used to allocate funds, services and programs that are intended to improve and sustain the lives of all of our citizenry. Therefore, every person is important and should be counted in this census.

Our census process is a lot easier than the one that the Holy Family had to follow. They had to return to Joseph’s home town to register. We can complete our census data electronically from the safety, security and convenience of our homes. For some folks a census worker may call upon us or find a public venue to help us fill in our information. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, gathering current census information will have to use new methods. No matter how we register our presence in this nation, we all need that data to understand better the demographic, age, and population distribution of our country and where our people live and work. Without our participation in the census process we will not be able to determine where our efforts of education, service, and public programs should be focused.

Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Saint Luke reveals to us how the birth of Christ was initially seen as an extraordinary census event, even though these three individuals would have hardly been considered important at that moment. They are now viewed as transforming human history itself. May each one of you find a way to be counted and add to the accuracy of our census. You are all important not only for our nation but especially in the hearts of those three who were together in Bethlehem that night.