June/July 2018 Four County Catholic
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
June is such an exhilarating time of hope and promise as we embrace the continuing joy of the Easter Season and the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is a season bursting with enthusiasm as seen in the faces of our graduating classes across the Diocese. We are blessed to live in a Country offering the freedom and opportunity to practice our faith and thrive as a nation under God.
By natural right from God and by protection of the U. S. Constitution, we are endowed with
religious freedom for all. The First Amendment to the Constitution, providing the freedom to believe and practice one’s religion or no religion as per one’s conscience, is considered our Country’s first freedom. We cannot afford to be complacent about preserving and defending this first right. It is the freedom of thought and conscience that allows us to call others to Christ and to engage in the ministries of faith that contribute to the common good of our society as we assist the poor, the hungry, those seeking education and the truth, the orphaned, the infirmed, the immigrant, the defenseless unborn and our most vulnerable brothers and sisters. We are free to serve others in God’s love.
As the world remains troubled and unsettled, we Bishops of the United States have organized a historic Religious Freedom Week from June 22 - June 29, 2018. Catholics across the United States are encouraged to pray and act in support of religious liberty. The very appropriate theme for this week of intense focus on religious liberty is “Serving Others in God’s Love.” The Holy Father, Pope Francis, describes this momentous cause in this way, “Religious freedom remains one of America’s most precious possessions. And, as my brothers, the United States Bishops have reminded us, all are called to be vigilant, precisely as good citizens, to preserve and defend that freedom from everything that would threaten or compromise it.”
To help us reflect, pray and act on specific areas of religious freedom, each day of Religious Freedom Week has a brief one-page guide. For example, the guide for Thursday, June 28th, reflects on Catholic education as central to the Church’s mission. It reminds us that “Catholic schools need the space - the freedom -- to operate in accordance with Catholic convictions if they are to continue to be a source of vitality for our society.” It further encourages us to support the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) to protect the tax-exempt status of non-profit entities, including schools.
These companion materials for the entire week’s program are available at USCCB.org/freedom
or on Twitter @USCCBFreedom or by texting “Freedom” to 377377. Each day, the current reflections will also be posted on the diocesan website norwichdiocese.org.
Our call is to be vigilant and proactive in defending religious liberty. Please join with us as we approach Religious Freedom Week. It is a special and timely opportunity to learn of the infringements we must recognize and defend against. Every instance of endangerment to our first freedom is critical. The efforts put forth on the HHS contraception mandate have brought us ever closer to a just outcome for right of conscience. There are freedoms at risk relative to immigration reform and on so many other fronts such as adoption and foster care. All of these affect all of us ultimately. Religious liberty strengthens the social conditions which improve the common good. It just doesn’t get any more socially urgent than standing firm on behalf of religious liberty.
Be sure to let your elected representatives know how important this cause is to each of you.
Almighty God, Father of all nations, We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice, and the common good. Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all those who live in this blessed land.
United in prayer,
Bishop Michael R. Cote