June 15, 2013 – Fortnight for Freedom II

Well first things first –Happy Father’s Day weekend to all of our dads – living and deceased.  May the Lord provide them with abundant blessings on their special day, and may they follow the example of St. Joseph who so selflessly gave of himself to Mary and the child Jesus.  My dad passed away almost 7 years ago, and still hardly a day goes by that I don’t think about what he would have done to handle a certain situation, or how he would have reacted to today’s current events.  Our dads play a very important and unique role in nurturing our families, which is one reason why the Catholic Church is so adamant in stressing the importance of the true meaning of marriage and the structure of the traditional family.

The attack of our culture on the God-given gifts of marriage and family is just one of the issues that will be emphasized during the 2nd annual Fortnight for Freedom which we will observe beginning next Friday, June 21 through Independence Day on July 4.  Similar to last year’s observance, the Fortnight for Freedom is a call to fourteen days of prayer, action, and study for religious freedom in the United States and abroad.  Last year’s focus was primarily on the HHS mandate which, as worded, will require many religious institutions to violate their consciences by providing insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization procedures, and abortion – inducing drugs and methods.  This year’s fortnight has great importance due to three main reasons:

o First, the Supreme Court’s rulings on same sex “marriage,” which could have grave implications for religious freedom, will almost certainly issue right around the Fortnight.

o Second, by the time of the Fortnight, the effective date of the HHS mandate—August 1, 2013—will be scarcely a month away, and the Administration’s decision on the shape of a final rule will likely be imminent. And unfortunately, as we now know after extensive study and analysis of the latest proposal, we are still far from receiving the relief we need through the regulatory process.

o Third, the success of a second Fortnight is essential to perpetuating a new movement for religious freedom, highlighting the full range of ongoing religious freedom issues, here and abroad, and in so many other areas of law, such as immigration, adoption, and disaster relief.

Many people mistakenly think that religious freedom simply means that we have the right to go to our own place of worship on Sunday or that we have the ability to pray as we wish in our homes.  Freedom of religion also means that we should have the ability to use our God-given abilities to contribute to the common good of all people.  Besides being merely an establishment for people to come to worship, the Catholic Church is also the largest charitable organization in the world.  About one in six patients in the U.S. are cared for in a Catholic hospital.  Over 2 million students are enrolled in Catholic schools in the U.S.  All of these services and many more are in jeopardy if the current legislative trends continue.

So what can we do during this Fortnight for Freedom?  As is always the number one and most important thing, we need to pray that our legislators will abandon proposals that threaten our ability to spread the gospel and to provide help to the poor and abandoned.  I will be providing links through our website and our Facebook page to daily reflections and other prayer resources throughout the Fortnight.

We also need to be informed.  We need to read more about these threats to our religious freedom and why it is so imperative for us to be in contact with our legislators to let them know that we will not tolerate the current climate which forces religion to be kept behind walls.  Again, I will be providing links to information which lays these things out.  I hope you will join myself and millions of Catholics across the country in participating in this important two-week period of prayer, education and activism.

I also wanted to call your attention to an excellent article written by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.  We in the Diocese of Belleville have heard a lot about Pastoral Planning over the last few months.  However, the message has really been out there for years that because of declining numbers of clergy, shifts in population, improved methods of transportation, etc., that we need a change in our parish structure.  This actually began under Bishop Keleher when parishes who could work together were defined.  This was taken a step further by Bishop Gregory by introducing a clustering process in which groups of parishes share resources in order to more effectively minister to the people.  Now, Bishop Braxton has brought to us the need to develop parish partnerships, coupling parishes together that can eventually be served by one or two priests.  Since we have heard so much about pastoral planning that we may have become immune to all of the talk, and we may think that because we still have yet to see significant change in our parish, that it will not occur this time either.  Well, as you read Cardinal Dolan’s article, you will realize that this phenomenon of pastoral planning is not just for rural dioceses such as ours, but is occurring everywhere.  Here is a link to what I think is a “must read” article:

Our Approach to Strategic Pastoral Planning

We see similarities to our own Diocese in that, for example, the New York Archdiocese is relying on priests who are ministering past the retirement age of 75 and also international priests in order to fulfill their sacramental needs.  We cannot rely on this assistance forever, so we need to have a plan in place for the eventual situation when we and St. Mary’s, Ellis Grove will be served by only one priest.

Finally, on a lighter note, I promised you a few more bloopers from church bulletins, and here they are:

“Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir.  They need all of the help they can get!”

“A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall.  Music will follow.”

“Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.”

“The Associate Minister unveiled the church’s new campaign slogan last Sunday: “I Upped My Pledge – Up Yours.”

Have a great week – Peace.

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