Cardinal Dolan will celebrate Mass at 7 a.m. on Friday, June 22, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in commemoration of the archdiocesan observance of “Fortnight for Freedom,” a national period of prayer, study, catechesis and public action proclaimed by the U.S. bishops for June 21 to July 4.
Additionally, parishes across the archdiocese are being 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 on 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.
Sister Veronica Mary Sullivan, S.V., director of the Family Life/Respect Life Office, is assisting with the New York celebration. Fortnight for Freedom, she said, “links in a beautiful way what most of us hold so dear, that not only are we in our very core Catholics, but at the same time Americans.”
The dates of Fortnight for Freedom are significant, Sister Veronica said. “They fall between the feasts of the great saints who, in our Catholic history, have had the courage to stand for their deeply held convictions, and they chose really to die rather than compromise their consciences."
She was referring to St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, as well as St. Peter and St. Paul who “were likewise martyred for preaching Jesus Christ.”
The closing date, July 4, is also notable in that it is the day those in the United States celebrate their American liberty.
It is important that the faithful rally around Fortnight for Freedom, Sister Veronica said. “We don’t take a vacation from our faith, we don’t take a vacation from who we are as persons. Those things we hold most dear.
“This is what the bishops have titled…‘our most cherished liberty’ that we hold as Americans—our religious freedom.
“This is the foundation of all our freedoms,” Sister Veronica continued. “If we’re not free in our consciences, then all our other freedoms are fragile.”
Prayer will be paramount throughout the fortnight, Sister Veronica said. “This fortnight for freedom is fortuitous because, really, where else are we going to look but to an even higher power, God?
“We’re praying not only for light and help and strength for our nation, for ourselves, but for those who are leading this battle,” in particular Cardinal Dolan and Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
“We really have to pray for them and for all our bishops, that they remain steadfast and courageous,” Sister Veronica added.
All ages can, and should, participate in Fortnight for Freedom, said Sister Veronica, who called the effort “a huge teaching moment.”
“Parents can teach their children so much about what is unique about America. Why is this reaching to the very depths of who we are as Americans? Why is our response so massive, and should be?
“It’s because America is unique in this world, and is looked upon as such, because our freedoms have been protected. We don’t know what it’s like not to have them.”
Masses at well-known basilicas in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. will open and close the “fortnight for freedom.”
Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore will celebrate the opening Mass at Baltimore’s historic Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 21, to kick off the Catholic Church’s national education campaign on religious liberty.
The closing liturgy will be at 12:10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 4, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington will celebrate the Mass, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia will be the homilist.
The Eternal Word Television Network will carry the shrine Mass live.
Both national and local efforts will comprise the campaign that has been launched by the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty.
In addition to the Baltimore and Washington liturgies, national efforts include establishment of a website at www.fortnight4freedom.org.
The site features resources such as frequently asked questions about religious liberty, including quotes from the Founding Fathers, the Second Vatican Council and Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Also available is a study guide on “Dignitatis Humanae,” the Second Vatican Council’s document on religious liberty.
In addition, the site provides several one-page sheets outlining current threats to religious freedom in the United States and abroad.
The website also lists a sample of activities already planned in dioceses, as well as resources and recommendations for other local efforts, such as special liturgies and prayer services.
Bell ringing is planned for noon on July 4 to remind citizens nationwide of the primary place of religious freedom in the history, law and culture of the United States.
“We never ever can underestimate the power of prayer,” Sister Veronica said. “Even one holy hour before the Almighty, omnipotent God is of immense power and can literally pull down immeasurable grace. That is where the core of our faith is.
“Our definitive freedom is found only in God. Jesus is the source of true liberation.”
Catholic News Service contributed to this story.