Masses, devotions, rallies mark US church’s ‘fortnight for freedom’
Catholics in dioceses across the United States participated in Masses, devotions, holy hours, educational presentations and rallies during the June 21 to July 4 campaign to support the nation’s “first and most cherished freedom” and draw attention to actions Catholic and other religious leaders say are weakening religious liberty, including the federal contraceptive mandate.
The U.S. bishops’ campaign began on the vigil of the feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More with Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom.
He held up the two martyrs as a source of inspiration for American Catholics, saying “their courageous witness of faith continues to stir the minds and hearts of people yearning for authentic freedom, and specifically, for religious freedom,” he said.
The fortnight closed on Independence Day with Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington and the tolling of bells at churches across the country at noon Eastern time.
Fortnight events in dioceses around the country included an Independence Celebration Walk & Picnic in Des Moines, Iowa; a motorcycle “Rosary Ride for Religious Freedom” in Colorado Springs, Colo.; nonpartisan voter registration drives after Masses in Atlanta parishes; a religious liberty conference in Covington, Ky.; an outdoor Faith and Freedom Mass in a park band shell in Savannah, Ga.; and a prayer service with special petitions for the fortnight in the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma, Ohio.
In the Diocese of Brooklyn, N.Y., Catholics participated in a 12-hour marathon of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament at the Church of St. Joseph in Brooklyn. Jocelyn Rodriguez, a teenager from St. Elizabeth Parish in Ozone, N.Y., organized youth groups to lead the faithful during the vigil.
In upstate New York, parishioners in the Rochester Diocese participated in a 14-day-long Festival for Freedom at a retreat house in Canandaigua. The free events include a speaker series on the topics of ethics, justice and natural law; Masses and prayer services; and plays and other activities.
Organizers described the festival as “a time and place to renew our commitments, to learn about our country’s founding principle of religious freedom and to join with others who feel strongly that, unless current trends and mandates are reversed, the core principle of freedom of religion will be eroded.”
At Holy Family Catholic Church in Orlando, Fla., students in grades 6 to 12 participated in an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt to find items representing faith and liberty.
“We are blessed to live in a great nation founded on religious freedom in which all of our natural freedoms are protected,” Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach told the Florida Catholic diocesan newspaper. “That is evident as we legitimately and respectfully gather today to join in prayer and make our voices heard in regard to the protection of religious freedom.” [More]
CNS/The Boston Pilot