CHARLESTON—The Diocese of Charleston launched its Fortnight for Freedom celebration with a Eucharistic procession that had about 500 people pouring out of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and onto the streets.
Led by Msgr. Steven L. Brovey and Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, the congregation walked down Meeting and King Streets singing hymns all the way to the Battery, where an altar was set up for a short service under the blazing morning sun.
Participants called it a walk of gratitude, noting that it was an opportunity to appreciate what religious freedom is and live it beyond the walls of the church.
“To bring our faith out on the street freely is a joy that we have to fight for,” said Kathy Schmugge, assistant director of the family life office and co-coordinator of the event.
The June 23 procession was part of a kickoff event that started with evening Mass on June 22 followed by all-night Eucharistic adoration. The
Fortnight for Freedom runs June 21 to July 4 and was called for by the U.S. bishops as a prayerful time to raise awareness about the threats to religious freedom.
In a document titled “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty” the bishops note specific examples of how our first amendment right is under attack on a bi-partisan level.
For Catholics, the most imminent threat is a mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that all employer-provided health insurance plans cover, without deductibles or co-pays, government-approved forms of birth control, including abortifacients and sterilization.
Another major controversy involves state immigration laws. Several states have passed laws that forbid what the government deems “harboring” of undocumented immigrants — and what the Church deems Christian charity and pastoral care.
Other state laws impacting religious freedom have touched on everything from church structure to who can meet on a school campus. For a full list, read the bishops’ statement at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/our-first-most-cherished-liberty.cfm.
It is the continual erosion of religious freedom that has brought the faithful together in ecumenical protest.
John and Mary Sprague, Episcopalians from Savannah, Ga., said it is not just a Catholic issue. They were out for a walk when they saw the procession and decided to join in.
“The freedom to worship our God — how thankful I am to do so with my sisters and brothers in Christ,” Mrs. Sprague said.
People stopped to watch the group process by, but there were no protestors.
Upon reaching the altar, part of the group kneeled in the hot road while others took refuge in the shade, joining their voices in the Litany for Liberty.
Bishop Guglielmone urged everyone to continue those prayers for the next two weeks and into the future.
“We must come together in peace and pray for the freedoms we all enjoy,” he said.
Read more and see more photos in the The Catholic Miscellany newspaper.
Photo by Douglas Deas