June 20, 2014

Fortnight for Freedom: the liberty to serve others in need

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.RFor the past three years, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a two-week period of prayer and action to address many of the current challenges to religious liberty, including the still unresolved unjustly coercive mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide employees with health care plans covering free contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs, regardless of any moral or religious objections on the part of the employers.

During this two-week period from June 21 to July 4, all Catholics and all who share our convictions about the fundamental importance of religious liberty in American life are urged to reflect on what it means to be free persons living in a free society.

In particular, we’re invited to remember our nation’s roots and the sacrifices made by our ancestors, many of whom fled from religious persecution in their homelands in order to find authentic religious and political freedom in the New World.

Our ancestors knew that real freedom requires commitment, generosity and the willingness to serve others. Theirs was not a self-centered freedom. It was a determined effort to live as God intended us to live—in communion with one another, in harmony with nature (creation) and in fidelity to God’s will.

2014 Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve logoThe pioneering women and men who shaped our nation were willing to fight for freedom and for the religious values, political principles and economic systems that they believed guaranteed a better way of life for them and for future generations.

Forces in our secular culture today threaten this long-standing American value, the freedom of religion, which includes the freedom to worship and to live according to our personal religious standards, but which also has a profoundly social or public dimension. We believe that no government has the authority to infringe on these basic human rights.

And during this two-week period, the Fortnight for Freedom, we commit to giving public witness to this most cherished American value.

This year, bishops of the United States have proposed the theme “Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Serve” to emphasize that our desire for freedom is not selfish.

Americans are among the most generous people in the world. We know that we have been blessed by God, but we also know that we have an absolute responsibility to use the gifts we have been given to help others and to make our world a better place.

Since coming to central and southern Indiana more than a year and a half ago, I have seen firsthand the generosity of Catholics in parishes in every region of our archdiocese. I’ve also been amazed and deeply moved by the work that is done every day by our Catholic Charities agencies, our Catholic hospitals, schools, colleges and universities and other faith-based institutions throughout this region.

Let me share with you some mind-blowing statistics. In 2013, Terre Haute Catholic Charities provided 2.5 million pounds of food to hungry people in seven counties in the Terre Haute area. In the same year, Ryves Youth Center in Terre Haute provided a safe place for more than 1,500 children after school and during school breaks.

In the same period, 219 volunteers in southern Indiana donated more than 13,245 hours of service through St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities in New Albany. These services ranged from helping women facing crisis pregnancies to helping abused and neglected children as court-appointed special advocates. And the list goes on and on—in the city of Indianapolis, in the Richmond area, the Batesville deanery and everywhere I turn!

These are the same organizations that too many in our modern culture seek to exclude from the narrow definition of “freedom of worship,” which corresponds to an entirely private understanding of the role of religion in society and is, therefore, not what we mean by the much broader and deeper concept of “freedom of religion.”

In fact, as an integral part of their mission, Catholic institutions in our archdiocese serve many who are not Catholic (the majority of Catholic Charities’ clients). And the religious, humanitarian and moral values that these organizations espouse—in practice as well as in theory—contribute directly to the health and vitality of local communities and our society as a whole.

This year, the Fortnight for Freedom reminds us that we are free precisely because we are called to serve. Let’s pray that long after this two-week period ends, the tradition of religious liberty—which makes service possible—will remain firmly rooted in the American consciousness with the full protection and support of our laws and our elected officials.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R
Archbishop of Indianapolis


Related: Religious liberty rally set for June 21 at State House

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