Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila will celebrate religious freedom and how it allows Catholics to serve the poor without discrimination at a special Mass on June 27.
He will pray for religious freedom during a time that is particularly fragile with the federal mandate requiring all health insurance plans to provide birth control, courts allowing same-sex marriages and laws worldwide impacting immigration and adoptions.
The Mass at 6:30 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Denver is part of the national Fortnight for Freedom – taking place June 21-July 4 – and calling all Catholics to prayer, education and action for religious freedom worldwide.
This year’s theme, “Freedom to Serve,” focuses on how religious freedom enables the Church to serve the poor and vulnerable in accord with human dignity and the Church’s teaching.
“Our country is strengthened by the selfless service of so many committed Catholics, Christians and other people of good will,” said David Uebbing, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Denver. “Freedom of religion is a vital component of the fabric of our society because it allows people to express their faith through service, without fear of being discriminated against for their beliefs.”
Archbishop Aquila will give a special blessing at the Mass to those who serve the poor, including workers and volunteers with the archdiocese’s Catholic Charities that serves Catholics and non-Catholics throughout northern Colorado.
Since 1927, the organization has helped with such needs as child care, housing and shelters for the homeless. Last fall, Catholic Charities was among the first to provide disaster relief to hundreds affected by the floods throughout Boulder, Weld and Larimer counties.
“Poverty is more than the absence of wealth,” said Wendy Oldenbrook, the local director of development and marketing for Catholic Charities. “The poverty we often work with at Catholic Charities is a product of isolation; people who feel entirely alone, afraid, abandoned. What religious freedom means to us is that we are able to share the love of Jesus to people—we have the freedom to meet a need more fundamental than hunger and homelessness.”
Without religious freedom, Catholic Charities would be just another well-meaning social service agency, Oldenbrook said.
“Leading with Jesus differentiates us. We bring the love and compassion of Jesus into everything we do; this is what guides our ministry,” she said.
During last year’s local recognition of Fortnight for Freedom more than 500 Coloradans gathered on the steps of the state Capitol with the archbishop to pray for state legislators, the state and our country. Father Randy Dollins, moderator of the curia for the archdiocese, credits prayer for helping to defeat a proposed state law earlier this year that would have introduced unregulated abortion in Colorado.
“There is no doubt that the prayers offered at the state Capitol by the people of Colorado helped defeat the bill two days later,” Father Dollins said.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began Fortnight for Freedom in 2012 and archdioceses nationwide have participated through interfaith prayer services, rallies, conferences and town hall meetings. The event takes place each year on June 21-July 4 because the liturgical calendar celebrates a series of martyrs who remained faithful in the face of prosecution by political power, including St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist and Saints Peter and Paul.
The two weeks this year is expected to coincide with an important ruling for the Church concerning the federal mandate on birth control. The U.S. Supreme Court may rule in late June on a case challenging the mandate filed by two families, one an evangelical and another a Mennonite, and supported by the Catholic Church.
Fortnight for Freedom Mass & Blessing
When: 6:30 p.m. June 27 celebrated by Archbishop Aquila
Where: St. Vincent de Paul Church, 2375 E. Arizona Ave., Denver
Who: All are invited