Once again, the Bishops of the United States have issued a call for a Fortnight for Freedom beginning Saturday, June 21 until Independence Day, Friday, July 4, 2014. This observance consists of a two-week period of prayer, reflection and action to promote a greater understanding of religious liberty and the need to preserve it. This year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty is highlighting the link between religious liberty and service to the poor and vulnerable – and how certain government mandates could affect our ability to continue providing this service. As such, the theme for this year is Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve.
Pope Francis, in his Apostolic Exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, reminds us about the importance of serving the poor. Our Holy Father asserts, “When St. Paul approached the apostles in Jerusalem to discern whether he was ‘running or had run in vain’ (Gal 2:2), the key criterion of authenticity which they presented was that he should not forget the poor (cf. Gal 2:10).” Today, in parishes throughout the Diocese of Scranton and through diocesan agencies such as Catholic Social Services, the mission to serve the poor and vulnerable is being fulfilled in many ways.
These endeavors include soup kitchens, food pantries, clothing provisions, health clinics, housing for the homeless and the elderly, adoption and post-adoptive services, foster care, family enrichment, immigration services, refugee and resettlement services, and drug and alcohol treatment programs. Thousands of people are assisted by these programs each year, and I am extremely grateful to the clergy, religious and laity who coordinate and staff them, and to all those who support them through generous contributions to their parishes and the Diocesan Annual Appeal. You are models of servant-leadership, a mission I have called all of us to embrace as the hallmark of our local Church.
During this Fortnight for Freedom, I encourage parishes and Catholic institutions in the Diocese to organize prayer opportunities and to provide resources to promote the importance of religious freedom in our country. This special “Fortnight for Freedom” page offers various resources designed to provide information on this issue. In addition, there are links to websites that enable visitors to partake in legislative advocacy to protect religious liberty. Further, I invite you to partake of the grace offered by the Prayer for Religious Freedom, included below, by reciting it individually and with others on a regular basis.
I am pleased to announce that we will gather as a community of servants to the poor and vulnerable at a special Mass of Faith and Freedom on Sunday, June 29, 2014, at 12:15 p.m. in the Cathedral of Saint Peter, Scranton. During this liturgy, we will reflect on the need to cultivate a spirit of service and to commemorate our freedom to serve in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching. I invite everyone in the Diocese, particularly those who serve the poor and vulnerable in a specific way, to join me for the celebration of this Mass, either in person or by watching the live broadcast on CTV: Catholic Television of the Diocese of Scranton.
Anticipating that you will join me in this effort, I am most grateful for all that you have done and will continue to do to preserve and defend religious liberty.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
Bishop of Scranton
O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome —
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us —
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
The following prayers may be used in solidarity with the bishops’ call to penance and prayer to restore religious freedom and conscience protections.
Please note: No special permissions are required to use these prayers, so long as no modification is made and proper attribution is given as noted on the resources.
Reflections for the Fortnight for Freedom
Daily reflections with readings and questions that can be used for group discussion or personal reflection.
Parish Resources (14 ways to celebrate Fortnight for Freedom)
“We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.”
—Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, April 12, 2012
Learn more below about the current domestic threats to religious liberty. For information on the HHS mandate, please see the HHS mandate page. For information on conscience protection, please see usccb.org/conscience.
UPDATED ACTION ALERT
- Check out the latest action alert, and please write to Congress to oppose the HHS mandate and call for conscience protections. Ask your Representative and Senators to support the Health Care Conscience Rights Act (H.R. 940, S. 1204) and to ensure respect for the religious liberty and conscience rights of all participants in our nation’s health care system. You are encouraged to personalize the action center’s message body.
- In addition to sending an email, please call your Members of Congress! The U.S. Capitol switchboard number is 202-224-3121, or call your Representative’s and Senators’ local offices. Additional contact info can be found on Representatives’ websites at www.house.gov . . . and Senators’ websites at www.senate.gov