By Becky Aubut, Anchor Staff
FALL RIVER, Mass. — The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage has been asking area parishes to help support the upcoming March for Marriage (www.MarriageMarch.org) in Washington, D.C. on June 19.
Taking place two days before the annual Fortnight for Freedom, this year’s march has several organizations collaborating to sponsor and celebrate as participants give witness to the unique meaning of Marriage as the union of one man and one woman at a time when the religious liberties and conscience rights of those who promote and defend Marriage are increasingly threatened.
Complementing the bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage and Religious Liberty (www.usccb.org/life-marriage-liberty), the USCCB stated the March for Marriage will be an important means to promote and defend Marriage for the good of our culture, to pray for our federal and state governments, and to stand in solidarity with the people of good will. Seeing Marriage amendments being struck down throughout the United States, stated the bishops, supporting the March comes at critical time for Marriage in our country.
Guest speakers for the March include the former governor of Arkansas and nationally syndicated TV and radio host, Mike Huckabee; the chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone; the president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown; and New York Senator (D-Bronx), minster and president of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, Rev. Ruben Diaz.
The USCCB also launched a new DVD, “El Matrimonio: Hecho para el amor y la vida,” (“Marriage: Made for Love and Life”) a Spanish DVD (with optional English subtitles) that is part of the “Marriage: Unique for a Reason” series, an initiative of the USCCB Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “El Matrimonio” is a film that invites viewers into a compelling story about a faithful Marriage of 50 years and a young man and woman skeptical of Marriage. Materials are available online at www.MarriageUniqueforaReason.org and additional hard copies are available for purchase through www.usccbpublishing.org.
This year’s Fortnight to Freedom (www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom) will take place from June 21 to July 4, a time when the Catholic Church Liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power — St. Thomas More, St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul and the first martyrs of the Church of Rome. The theme of this year’s Fortnight, “Freedom to Serve,” will focus on the freedom to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teachings.
Pope Benedict XVI spoke in 2012 about his worry that religious liberty in the United States was being weakened, and he called religious liberty the “most cherished of American freedoms.”
The USCCB cited examples to show the various attempts to limit the freedom of religion in the U.S., such as the HHS mandate for sterilization, contraception and abortion-inducing drugs; the Catholic foster care and adoption services in Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia and the State of Illinois, whose local Catholic Charities have been driven out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples; and state immigration laws, where several states have passed laws that forbid what they deem as “harboring” of undocumented immigrants and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care to these immigrants.
Parishes in the Fall River Diocese are encouraged to include the special prayer written by the U.S. bishops in Masses during the Fortnight. Father Roger Landry, pastor of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River, took a moment during a recent trip to Rome to reflect on the what his parish will be doing for the Fortnight.
“In the Gospel, Jesus continuously calls us to vigilance and perseverance and we need those virtues especially with regard to protecting religious freedom,” said Father Landry, via email. “Even though the Constitution enshrines freedom of religion, these rights have been getting ignored by many politicians and gutted by inventive, judicial reinterpretations. The U.S. bishops are encouraging all Catholics not to let down their guard with regard to this most precious gift and right.”
During the Fortnight, special Masses will be celebrated in Baltimore, Md., on June 21, and in Washington D.C. on July 4. For times, please check your local TV listings.
St. Bernadette’s Parish will celebrate the launch of the Fortnight by hosting an all-night Eucharistic Adoration from June 20-21, with a special Mass on June 21 at 8 p.m. Along with distributing prepared materials by the U.S. bishops and encouraging parishioners to act on them, St. Bernadette’s Parish will celebrate a special Eucharistic Holy Hour with reflection at 7 p.m. on June 26.
“The theme this year is on ‘Freedom to Serve’ because recent incursions against religious freedom have taken away from the Church the freedom to serve in some areas and may threaten the Church’s continued ministry in all our social services,” said Father Landry, on this year’s theme. “Certain state laws have forced Catholic social service agencies out of helping with adoptions because it requires the Church to place children in homes that may not be for the children’s ultimate good. The interpretation of federal laws, like the Affordable Care Act, is trying to force Catholic agencies to underwrite contraception, sterilizations and chemical abortions or pay outrageous and crippling fines.
“Certain secularists in government and in the courts are trying to box Catholics into a corner: in order to follow our conscience and the Lord’s command to love and serve our neighbor, especially those most in need, we need to violate our conscience by cooperating in what we know is evil by funding immoral practices. In this Fortnight, we pray for God’s help, to strengthen us as a Church to resist these pressures. We pray for our legislators and court officials. And we ponder our role as Catholic citizens, called by Jesus to be courageous salt, light and leaven in our country.”