Cardinal Dolan kicked off the archdiocesan observance of the national “Fortnight for Freedom” at an early morning Mass on the memorial of two martyrs of the Church: St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.
“Our rights, as the founders of our beloved nation often observed, come from Almighty God,” Cardinal Dolan said in his homily at the 7 a.m. liturgy Friday, June 22, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. “Therefore, no earthly power or government can take them away.”
“If that first and most cherished of freedom—freedom of religion—goes, then the other freedoms are in jeopardy,” continued the cardinal. “St. John Fisher knew this…St. Thomas More knew this...And we know this, which is why we consider this first freedom the most cherished of them all.”
“Fortnight for Freedom” is a national period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action proclaimed by the U.S. bishops from June 21 to July 4.
Additionally, parishes across the archdiocese have been asked to conduct a Holy Hour for religious freedom during the fortnight, recite a prayer for religious liberty after all weekday and weekend Masses throughout the fortnight and to ring the church bells at noon July 4 in defense of religious liberty.
Information on local celebrations of “Fortnight for Freedom” may be accessed through the archdiocesan website at www.archny.org/news-events/freedom.
Among the approximately 250 who attended the June 22 Mass at the cathedral was a representation of students from St. Paul’s School in Manhattan. Through their participation in the religious liberty celebratory liturgy, the youngsters capped off the last day of the academic year by learning, and making, history.
Mike and Maureen Ferguson, both 42, of St. Teresa of Avila parish in Summit, N.J., in the Archdiocese of Newark, brought four of their five children to the cathedral: Grace, 12; Rose, 9; Joseph, 7; and Lucy, 1.
The family awoke at 5 a.m. for the drive from New Jersey to New York.
“There’s no more appropriate way to start off the fortnight than with the prayer of the Mass,” Mrs. Ferguson said. “It’s awe-inspiring to be in this cathedral with the cardinal who has been such a courageous leader on such a fundamental issue to our faith.”
Mike Ferguson, a former New Jersey Republican congressman, concurred. “It’s a great teaching moment for our children…that there are times when the government overreaches,” Ferguson said. “It’s important for us in America to stand up and hold our government accountable when that happens. We have the blessing in this country of being able to change government policies if they’re unjust.”
Apparently, their children have been attentive to the teaching moments. Grace recently received a score of 28 out of 30 points for a paper she was assigned to write about the HHS mandate, she said.
“The government’s made some bad choices,” added her brother Joseph.
Before leading the congregation in the Prayer for Religious Liberty, Cardinal Dolan encouraged all to pray it throughout the next 14 days.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the assembly sang “America,” also known as “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”
Donning a blue T-shirt that bore the word “Catholic,” Jeff Vrecenak, 28, of St. Rose of Lima parish in Freehold, N.J., Diocese of Trenton, prayed before the Blessed Sacrament after the Mass.
“It’s tough being a 28-year-old Catholic nowadays because I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to society in general,” Vrecenak said.
In addition to prayer, which is paramount, he personally promotes religious liberty among his peers.
“I have my Catholic T-shirt on right now just as a show of support.”
Vrecenak said he also posted “Fortnight for Freedom” on his Facebook page. “It sounds silly and small, but it is social media.”
No matter what one’s age, “perseverance” in promoting the faith, and the right to practice it, is vital, said Vrecenak, a warehouse supervisor.
“If you can be a Yankee fan, why can’t you be a Jesus fan?” he asked.
As for him, he’s a big fan of both. “I like going to Yankee Stadium, I like going to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”
Precisely 12 hours earlier, on June 21, the Basilica of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral fostered “Fortnight for Freedom” at a 7 p.m. Mass in the lower church chapel. A riveting discussion on religious freedom issues followed in a parish meeting room.
In order to carry out God’s will, “we need to be conscious of who we are as members of God’s kingdom always,” said Msgr. Donald Sakano, pastor of Old St. Patrick’s parish, in his homily. “We are, indeed, God’s citizens first.”
The Westchester and Putnam Coalition for Religious Freedom sponsored a Freedom Rally from noon to 2 p.m. in front of the Federal Court House Saturday, June 23, in White Plains. It included an interfaith witness and prayer for the right of religious freedom.
Father Arthur Rojas, a parochial vicar at St. Joseph parish in Yonkers, delivered the invocation and, along with the pastor, Father George Kuhn, was a featured speaker. Father Rojas also provided Spanish translations.
The rally was a rousing success, according to Father Rojas, despite it being held “on a hot, Saturday, summer day, with the noonday sun beaming overhead.”
At a brief press conference after the June 22 Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Cardinal Dolan gave a verbal invitation for the Independence Day celebration of “Fortnight for Freedom.”
“Come on back on the Fourth of July,” he said. “I’ve asked our people not just to shoot off firecrackers on the Fourth of July but to ring the church bells at noon.”